Alcoholic Myopathy: What are the Signs, Causes, and Treatments?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : JULY 09, 
2021 
| 4 Sources

How does alcoholic myopathy happen?

Alcoholism is a disease that affects many organs of the body, including the brain, gastrointestinal system, liver, pancreas, and cardiovascular system.

In addition to these well-known conditions associated with excessive drinking have recently received attention due to an increase in their frequency. Research has shown that alcohol myopathy effects approximately 0.5-2.0 % of alcoholics. This breaks down to approximately 2,000 individuals out of 100,000 people.

Alcoholic myopathy is one of them and can be classified as mild or severe depending on whether it manifests itself by the weakness of muscles contributing to the loss of muscle strength both in the fingers and legs, redness tenderness triggered pain.

Treatment for alcoholic myopathy is usually simple, when detected early. And consists mainly of avoiding alcohol consumption or reduce intake to a reasonable level in order not again developed alcoholic myopathy characteristics as described above.

This article discusses alcoholic myopathy causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

What is Alcoholic Myopathy?

Alcoholic myopathy is a condition characterized by muscle weakness, tenderness, and pain. It's also known as alcoholic neuropathy and alcohol-related muscular disorder. The main cause of the condition is excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time. Drinking heavily for many years can also lead to other severe health problems like liver disease and cancer. An estimated 15 percent of all people who drink too much suffer from alcoholic neuropathy in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Unlike some other conditions associated with excessive alcohol consumption, such as alcoholic pancreatitis caused by excessive alcohol consumption, alcoholic myopathy often occurs in healthy individuals.

Alcoholic myopathy is due to the direct toxic effects of alcohol on muscle tissue. However, abnormal sensations and reflexes can also contribute to this condition when the nervous system has been affected by alcoholism.

A number of factors determine how well you're able to recover from this form of muscle damage after you stop drinking. Some people may be more vulnerable than others based on their family history or age when they were first drinking heavily. Factors like poor nutrition, diabetes, and certain types of medications can also increase your risk for alcoholic myopathy.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Myopathy

The signs and symptoms of alcoholic myopathy can vary depending on which part of your body is affected. It's common for people to experience muscle weakness or problems with coordination. You may experience muscle tenderness if you have alcoholic neuropathy. This occurs when the peripheral nerves become damaged from excessive alcohol use. Muscle pain is also a common symptom when you have alcoholic myopathy. Some other less-common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the shoulder area
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Problems breathing
  • Seizures

These disorders are most likely to occur in your arms, shoulders, hands, elbows, legs, hips, and feet. The severity of these symptoms is generally mild, but they can be debilitating in some cases.

Causes of Alcoholic Myopathy

The relationship between alcohol and this condition is well established. In fact, about half of all people who have alcoholic myopathy also have alcoholism. Alcohol can damage your muscles in a variety of ways, which we'll cover below.

  • Damage to the Central Nervous System (CNS) – Regular heavy drinking can lead to central nervous system disorders that cause muscle weakness and lack of coordination. These CNS problems are most common in people with alcoholism, but they do sometimes occur even if you only drink occasionally or moderately over time.
  • Neurological Conditions – People who chronically abuse alcohol often suffer from neurological conditions like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, metabolic syndrome, and hepatic encephalopathy. All these conditions can increase the risk for alcoholic myopathy.
  • Liver Damage – Alcoholism can lead to severe liver damage and other serious health problems like alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Over time, the liver cells are destroyed and replaced with scar tissue. This can impact your body's ability to process proteins essential for building muscle mass, leading to a loss of muscle tissue.
  • Vitamin Deficiencies – Chronic alcohol abuse leads to a variety of vitamin deficiencies that make you susceptible to this disorder. These include B1, B3, A, E, C, D, and K as well as folic acid.
MyopathyPhoto by Alexander Jawfox

Treatment for Alcoholic Myopathy 

If you're diagnosed with alcoholic myopathy or neuropathy, your doctor will first recommend that you stop drinking. This is the only sure way to prevent further damage and help your recovery. You'll likely need to follow up with a drug treatment program if you have alcoholism. Your therapist or addiction specialist can suggest medications and other treatments for quitting alcohol and reducing cravings.

They may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce muscle pain while your body heals from the damage of chronic alcohol use. Some people with severe symptoms like difficulty breathing or paralysis may require physical therapy in order to regain functionality.

Prevention of Alcohol-related Muscle Problems

The best way to prevent this condition is to stop drinking altogether. If you're struggling with alcoholism, there are numerous resources available to you that could help. Quitting alcohol will not only help your muscles recover but will also reduce your risk for other serious health problems like liver disease or cancer.

You should always drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines moderate drinking as no more than two drinks per day for men, no more than one drink per day for women, and other gender-related differences between individuals. · If you have liver damage from excessive drinking, you need to take extra care of yourself to avoid further complications. Your doctor may recommend that you get regular blood tests or ultrasounds to monitor your health so they can catch any problems before they become serious.

You'll also want to address any vitamin deficiencies caused by your alcoholism. Start taking vitamins like B1, B3 A, E C, and D, as well as folic acid supplements. Your healthcare provider can also recommend other treatments to support your liver as well.

Conclusion:

Alcoholic myopathy is a serious condition that can cause permanent damage to your muscle tissue and lead to potentially life-threatening complications. The symptoms seen in this disorder are often mistaken for other conditions, which means it's important to get checked out by a medical professional if you notice any of the signs or experience difficulty with walking, speaking, swallowing food, or moving around.

If you have alcoholism, your doctor will recommend that you stop drinking to help reverse this condition. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse problems, consider treatment.



Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


Hello!

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


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