Alcohol consumption

Health Q&A: Can drinking alcohol cause nerve damage?

Q: Can drinking alcohol cause nerve damage, especially peripheral neuropathy?—Erica, Philadelphia

A: Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves in the hands and feet stop working properly, causing weakness, numbness, tingling and pain in those areas. Medical experts suggest that there are many causes of neuropathy, but heavy alcohol consumption has been shown to have a toxic effect on nerve endings, while moderate wine consumption does not.

“I think moderate wine consumption is very unlikely to cause neuropathy,” said Dr. William Arnold, a neurologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. wine spectator. “The only time I’ve seen people with what I felt like alcohol-related neuropathy was with very heavy drinking.” (Dr. Arnold said such cases usually involved heavy drinkers consuming six or more drinks a day.) Dr. Felicia Chow and Dr. Catherine McCarthy also said wine spectator that chronic alcohol consumption is more closely associated with neuropathy than moderate consumption.

Dr. Arnold explains that when the body breaks down alcohol, it makes metabolites that have been experimentally shown to have a toxic effect on the nerves. But he adds that neuropathy can be caused by “thousands of different things”, from vitamin deficiency to injury to diabetes. Consult your doctor to better assess your relationship between wine consumption and neurological health.—Shawn Zylberberg