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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1998 Dec;22(9):2023-8.

Natural history of alcoholic myopathy: a 5-year study.

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Generalitat-Hospital Clínic, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Barcelona, Spain.


Chronic myopathy is a common complication of alcoholism, but its natural history has not been well described. We, therefore, studied muscle structure and function in a 5-year study of 30 chronic alcoholics who became abstinent and 20 who relapsed, and 40 control subjects. The mean strength of the abstaining alcoholics increased from 18.6 to 23.2 kg; but, after 5 years, they were still substantially weaker than controls. In a subset who showed histological myopathy, the strength of half of the patients remained two standard deviations below that of controls. Alcoholics who relapsed tended to become progressively weaker (21.7 kg vs. 18.2 kg) and develop histological evidence of myopathy. Thus, continued alcohol abuse was generally reflected in deterioration of muscle strength and the appearance of histological injury to muscle. Importantly, almost half of the sober patients did not recover to normal levels, indicating that alcoholic myopathy is only partially reversible. We also unexpectedly found that, in some alcoholics, a substantial reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed may be as effective as complete abstinence in improving muscle strength or preventing its deterioration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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