As with any substance use disorder, alcohol abuse comes with serious detriments to your overall health. Alcohol addiction can affect your ability to think, move normally, and fight off disease. It can also increase your risk of cancer, pancreatitis, and liver and heart diseases.
In a recent study by The Recovery Village involving over 2,000 respondents, nearly 1 in 3 reported high blood pressure (31%), 1 in 6 reported liver disease, 12% reported cirrhosis, and 1 in 10 reported cardiovascular diseases, all related to the respondents’ alcohol use.
Alcoholic myopathy increases muscle weakness, decreases muscle strength, and makes changes to the muscle structure. About half of all alcoholics will develop some form of myopathy as a result of their drinking habits. While this is an alarming possibility for any alcoholic, there are ways to recognize and treat the disease.
Symptoms of alcoholic myopathy include:
Symptoms tend to affect both sides of the body equally and are more prevalent in the legs. Usually, they appear gradually and get worse over time, but case studies have shown a sudden onset of symptoms after heavy binge drinking.
Alcohol abuse can also cause damage to the heart. People who struggle with alcoholism are prone to weakened hearts, or cardiomyopathy. When cardiomyopathy occurs, the heart sags and stretches, making it difficult to pump blood throughout the body. If left unchecked, this leads to organ and tissue damage, and, in severe cases, even heart failure.
You might be suffering from cardiomyopathy if you experience:
Please seek treatment immediately if you experience any of the symptoms of alcoholic myopathy, heart-related or otherwise.
Both alcohol and acetaldehyde — the byproduct of your liver breaking down the alcohol — work against your body’s ability to make new muscle proteins. This can result in up to 30% of lost muscle mass.
Many people with alcoholic myopathy tend to lack normal levels of Vitamin E; alcohol attacks carotenoids (Vitamin E producers) in the liver, resulting in this deficiency. The problem here is that studies have proven that damaged muscle cells recover better when they’re exposed to Vitamin E. Since alcoholics don’t get enough of this necessary antioxidant, their muscles suffer.
Alcoholism and poor nutrition often go hand-in-hand. In the case of extremely heavy drinkers, alcohol replaces food in their diet, but a side-effect of any alcohol use is that the body is unable to absorb the nutrients it needs from food. Without enough Vitamin B, for example, nerve cells get destroyed, resulting in the tingling sensation of neuropathy.
The first step is to get sober to prevent further damage. The initial detoxification period takes about a month, and it can be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting, with the help of a group like Alcoholics Anonymous or on your own. But sobriety is the first and most important goal.
Other interventions are important to consider:
While alcoholic myopathy is a dangerous and prevalent side-effect of alcoholism, it’s important to remember that the symptoms are recognizable, and the condition itself is treatable.
If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol use even though it causes health problems, such as alcoholic myopathy, you should consider seeking special help.
Start by taking one of our free alcohol self-assessments:
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake has a proven track record of providing caring and successful alcohol abuse treatment in Colorado. Contact one of our team members today to learn how alcohol rehab can benefit you or your loved ones.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.