This text was written according to scientific standards. Verified for accuracy by medical experts.
Nerve pain is a condition that particularly affects alcoholics because alcohol is a neurotoxin. In addition, alcoholism is often accompanied by mineral and vitamin deficiencies. But other toxic factors can also affect metabolism and attack the nervous system.
Cause alcohol addiction
Nerve pain is a condition that frequently affects alcoholics in particular: alcohol polyneuropathy occurs more frequently in men than in women and is the second most common trigger for nerve damage and insensations in Germany. Between 20 and 40 percent of all alcohol addicts suffer from polyneuropathies, in which several nerves are painfully damaged. Alcohol abuse leads to polyneuropathy with sensory and motor deficits and vitamin deficiency neuropathy. Nerve pain can be expected after daily consumption of at least 100 ml of ethanol for three years.
One reason for this is the lack of vitamin thiamine, which is often present in alcoholics, especially in the case of incorrect nutrition, and which leads to damage to the peripheral nerves. On the other hand, alcohol itself acts as a neurotoxin. Attacks the nerve pathways. Alcohol polyneuropathy occurs predominantly in the lower extremities and is usually symmetrically arranged. Hands and legs do not always have to be affected at the same time. The first symptoms are numbness, tingling and pain in the feet, legs and/or hands.
The most common symptom of alcohol polyneuropathy is the Disturbance of deep sensibility: Sufferers can't feel when they put a foot on the ground. Pain in the legs can be caused by damaged nerves in the area of the lower leg and foot and is also called "Burning Feet". In case of pain under the feet, some affected persons shift their weight to the sides of the feet. Alcohol polyneuropathy may also be manifested by pain and weakness in the leg muscles, especially in the calves. This limits the mobility of those affected. Other possible symptoms include disturbances in positional, surface, and temperature sensation. Vitamin deficiency leads to eye muscle paralysis. Decreased attention. Other signs of vitamin deficiency include inflammation of the skin, diarrhea, and dementia. Treatment is primarily aimed at stopping the consumption of alcohol immediately. In the case of proven vitamin B deficiency, the intake of nutritional supplements may also be useful. However, large amounts of it act like a nerve poison. Can cause polyneuropathy rather than relieve it. Alcohol-related polyneuropathy can take a chronic course if it is not treated in time, abstinently, and consistently over a period of months.
Cause vitamin deficiency
If the body is affected by long-term vitamin B6 and B1 deficiency, as in the case of alcohol dependence, polyneuropathies may occur. Gastrointestinal diseases such as gastritis (chronic inflammation of the stomach) or partial stomach removal can also mean that the body can no longer absorb certain vitamins in sufficient quantities. However, the risk of polyneuropathy in these cases is relatively low.
The situation is similar with some medications (z.B. Macumar) or foods such as coffee, shrimp or even beans: These are considered antivitamins and can also lead to a vitamin deficiency, and in rare cases then also to neuropathy. The challenge lies in diagnostics, because some vitamins can only be detected in the laboratory using complex and expensive technology.
Symptoms of vitamin B deficiency
B-complex vitamins are considered nerve food. They are involved in the regulation of carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism as well as in blood formation and stimulate metabolism. But they also play an important role in the function of the nerves, as well as in their regeneration and growth.
Neuropathies can be caused by a deficiency of B-complex vitamins. In most cases, alcohol dependence or underweight is responsible, often in connection with an unbalanced and insufficient diet. For example, a vitamin B1 deficiency can lead to polyneuropathies, eye muscle paralysis, fatigue, attention deficits and tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.
Vitamin B2 deficiency causes inflammation of the skin, cracking of the skin, diarrhea and dementia. Dry skin, inflammation of the lips and mouth, anemia, numbness and pain in the hands and feet, or confusion can be signs of vitamin B6 deficiency. A deficiency of vitamin B9 (folic acid) can cause anemia and sensory neuropathies such as reduced pain sensation or decreased sensitivity to cold, heat or prere. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and gastrointestinal disorders. Result in the area of deep sensitivity.
Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and is found in animal and plant nutrients. Vitamin E deficiencies are not so much the result of malnutrition but rather a result of impaired fat digestion in cases of biliary or liver disease or after surgery in the area of the small intestine.
A vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) deficiency causes u.a. neurological damage such as peripheral neuropathy and impaired physical balance and coordination. These include dystonia (movement disorder), tremor (trembling), dysarthria (speech disorder) and ophthalmoparesis (eye muscle paralysis) can be other consequences. Diagnosis is made by determining alpha-tocopherol, which is related to the lipid concentration in the serum. The therapy consists in the administration of the vitamin.
Cause mineral deficiency
In addition to vitamins, the body needs many vital minerals. Copper, for example, is important for the formation of bones and connective tie and can be sufficiently absorbed in the diet if a balanced diet is provided. Severe copper deficiency due to inadequate uptake of copper in the body, excessive zinc intake, use of chelating agents, or parenteral nutrition can lead to neurological disorders.
Starvation dystrophy or malabsorption (lack of food intake due to disease z.B. of the intestine) can also lead to neuropathies. A special case are the complications in obesity and gastrointestinal surgery. Here, polyneuropathies occur again and again after surgical interventions. And – depending on the study – a vitamin deficiency can be identified as the cause in almost one in four cases, although the rest remain unclear.