May 12, 2005 7:06 AM   Subscribe

A few months back I had dangerously too much to drink. Sometime after that, I realized that the little finger of one hand has less sensation than it should. It's not completely numb and moves normally, but the partial numbness is disconcerting. Could alcohol consumption have caused this? Is this a symptom I should see a doctor about?
posted by alumshubby to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
I know that alcohol can cause fetal nerve damage, and worsen diabetic numbness, so it certainly seems plausible, but as all "should I see a doctor" questions on AskMe get answered: Yes, my friend, See Your Doctor.
posted by mdn at 7:40 AM on May 12, 2005

How were you moving around while you were drinking? Were you doing a lot of dancing (fighting?)?

One night I had a whole lot to drink .... aaaand I also danced in a frenzied way for about 6 hours straight. Half of my left big toe was numb for about two months after that. It's ok now.
posted by redteam at 7:59 AM on May 12, 2005

See your doctor, and you'll probably get referred to a neurologist. You probably have a slight nerve pinch in your cervical vertebrae. Best solution will involve: hot-cold treatment and neck stretches. And watch the sauce.
posted by beagle at 8:17 AM on May 12, 2005

Ask Dave Mustaine of Megadeth this question. He drank too much, fell asleep with his arm in a bad position, and ended up not able to play guitar for over a year.
posted by mischief at 8:31 AM on May 12, 2005

Is it just the little finger, or the little finger and half the ring finger? If it's the latter, you may have damaged the nerve where it goes through your elbow. I came out of hernia surgery with the same condition. After two years, I've either gotten used to it or it has gotten better (damned adaptable brain!). I saw the dr. about mine and was given medication which didn't really help much. The dr. asked if I wanted to be referred to a surgeon (this is a condition similar to carpal tunnel, but in the elbow instead of the wrist), and I decided it wasn't a big enough deal to think about surgery.

With respect to the disconcerting numbness.... well, in my case, I got used to it.
posted by Doohickie at 8:50 AM on May 12, 2005

Yeah, like a couple folks upthread have said, it's probably related... but is more likely from what you were doing while you drank.

Several weeks ago I drank to excess and either injured my shoulder while running down stairs where I tripped and caught myself, but possibly tore something - or by falling asleep on my arm in a funky position.

Whatever the cause, it still aches like a mother.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:23 AM on May 12, 2005

There's a ton of things that can cause peripheral neuropathy. Go see a Doctor. (but at a guess, I'd think it unlikely that alcohol would cause such a specific and localized symptom IANAD though)
posted by peacay at 9:46 AM on May 12, 2005

Response by poster: Nerve damage not related to alcohol consumption is remotely possible: I lie on the floor to read, propping a book on my chest with my elbows on the floor, and after an hour or two doing that I start to get some numbness in my hands. (No mattress or futon; just a sleeping bag on carpet.) I could see how if I did that enough, the pressure on my elbow just might damage a nerve slightly and result in the symptom.

Thx for replies.
posted by alumshubby at 10:10 AM on May 12, 2005

I was going to ask that very question, alumshubby. It's really easy to stretch out and/or compress your ulnar nerve by leaning on your elbows.

Is the numbness always there, or does it come and go? And when you say numbness, do you mean the tingly-fell-asleep feeling? Can you feel hot and cold?

At any rate, a single bout of a bunch of alcohol is highly unlikely to cause long-term nerve damage, unless you caused a mechanical injury while you were intoxicated. If that's the only symptom you have, I really wouldn't worry about it. If you start to have numbness or weakness anywhere else, it's time to see a doctor.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:45 AM on May 12, 2005

Response by poster: I can feel temperature extremes and pain there but not as acutely. I just also noticed that there's a small patch on the back of that hand that's partially numb and also has less acute pain and temperature sensation. Both are constant; neither is accompanied by the pins-and-needles feeling I normally associate with restricted circulation causing an extremity to "fall asleep."

While intoxicated, I spent at least a couple of hours lying on my back w/ elbows on the floor, just as I do when I read -- which I'm beginning to suspect is the real culprit here.
posted by alumshubby at 12:16 PM on May 12, 2005

Try going to a physiotherapist and getting some neck/shoulder work on the affected side. I periodically get something similar (thanks to a library shelving job years ago) and find that this helps.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:15 PM on May 12, 2005

alumshubby, I'm inclined to think your latter suspicion is correct. I spent a couple hours spray priming and spray painting a desk a couple of months ago, and the tips of my index fingers were numb (ever so decreasingly) for about a month.
posted by kimota at 7:29 PM on May 12, 2005

Yes actually alcohol could have caused it, but that is pretty far fetched. Your Doc should check your blood sugar levels when you see him if this is your main concern.

Much more likely: You have a type of "mouse arm", it's closely related to tennis elbow, but the nerve in the elbow has gotten caught in the 'opposite' fashion so to speak. I had it, it showed up one night after an absinthe binge so I was sure that I had alcohol related nerve-damage just like you.
I went nearly six months without feeling a thing in my pinky, having the ring finger joining in the numbness on occasion. Doc gave my inflammation-reducing painkillers to chew on for ten days while I did everything in my power to stop aggravating the elbow. It worked like a charm and all my feeling came back. I lean on my elbow when I type on the computer - that was the culprit.
posted by dabitch at 2:31 AM on May 13, 2005

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