Alcoholic Myopathy

Drinking with friends may seem like a fun way to spend an evening, but casual drinking can quickly escalate to alcohol abuse if it isn’t properly managed. If you become dependent on alcohol, it can be easy to develop an addiction to it. There’s some evidence that excessive alcohol use and muscle twitching are linked.

Alcohol abuse can also cause alcoholic myopathy, a disease that affects the muscles in various ways. Drinking alcoholic beverages in excess can cause muscle weakness even if it does not cause alcoholic myopathy.

What Is Alcoholic Myopathy?

Alcoholic myopathy (also known as alcohol-induced muscle disease) is a condition that causes increased muscle weakness, causing muscles to become smaller and less able to perform their normal functions. About half of all alcoholics will experience some form of muscle weakness as a result of their alcohol consumption. Cardiomyopathy can also be caused by alcoholic myopathy.

Up to 60% of individuals with chronic alcohol use disorder develop alcoholic myopathy. Alcohol use is a leading cause of acute and chronic alcoholic myopathies. However, the pattern of alcohol consumption can greatly affect which type of alcoholic myopathy develops. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Alcoholic myopathy occurs when alcohol affects the body, including muscles. It causes muscle weakness and wasting. Drinking too much alcohol and/or having an alcohol use disorder commonly leads to:

  • Electrolyte imbalances. Drinking alcohol can cause the body’s electrolytes to become imbalanced, which can harm the muscles of the body if consumed in excess.
  • Breakdown of muscle tissue. Drinking alcohol causes this at a cellular level. It increases inflammation and slows the body’s healing abilities down.
  • Nutritional deficiencies. Alcohol can interfere with the absorption of some nutrients, such as protein, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin D which may affect how well you build and maintain muscle.

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Binge drinking can cause acute alcoholic myopathy. This is defined as someone having consumed four to five alcoholic drinks within two hours.

Chronic alcoholic myopathy is a condition that develops after prolonged heavy drinking. It is unrelated to just one episode of excessive alcohol consumption. Heavy drinkers who drink frequently may experience this type of alcoholic myopathy.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Myopathy

Symptoms of alcoholic myopathy can differ from person to person, and not everyone will feel all symptoms. Furthermore, the symptoms of acute alcohol myopathy are significantly different than chronic alcoholic myopathy. Acute alcoholic myopathy symptoms include:

  • Muscle tenderness
  • Muscle weakness, cramping, spasms 
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Dark Urine, difficulty urinating
  • Sensitivity to heat

Is Alcoholic Myopathy Reversible?

Acute alcoholic myopathy can often be reversed by discontinuing the consumption of alcohol. Most symptoms will go away within a few days or within two weeks from the last binge drinking episode.

If you suffer from chronic alcoholic myopathy, it might be a sign that you have an alcohol use disorder. Discontinuing heavy alcohol use can be life-threatening and hospital care may be needed if you or your loved one experiences severe symptoms or complications associated with myopathy. If reducing alcohol consumption is difficult, you may have an alcohol use disorder and need to seek treatment.

Finding Help For Alcohol Use Disorder

Experiencing health issues like alcoholic myopathy can be a sign of something more difficult. If you or your loved one struggles with alcohol despite health problems, our team at Riverside Recovery of Tampa is here to help you on your road to a healthy, and strong recovery. Over 75% of our staff are in recovery and our clinical team provides individualized treatment programs for each of our clients. 

Contact our admissions team today to learn more about our treatment programs for alcohol use disorder

Lanska, D.J. (2020). Alcoholic myopathy

Simon, L., Jolley, S.E., & Molina, P.E. (2017). Alcoholic myopathy: Pathophysiologic mechanisms and clinical implications. Alcohol research: Current reviews, 38(2), 207-217

Simon, Liz; Jolley, Sarah E.; Molina, Patricia E. “Alcoholic Myopathy: Pathophysiologic Mechanisms and Clinical Implications.” Alcohol Research, 2017