Alcoholism Can Result in Permanent Balance Problems


A new study, to be published in the March 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, has found that alcoholics may never regain full balance control even after long-term sobriety.

The Study

Postural sway - an instability when standing - was measured in 34 alcoholic men, 15 alcoholic women, 22 control men, and 29 control women. As explained by study author Edith V. Sullivan, of Stanford University School of Medicine, the results of these measurements showed that "even with prolonged sobriety, people with long-term chronic alcohol dependence can have difficulty in standing upright. Their balance can be marked by sway that exceeds what most of us experience while standing still in one place, especially with feet together and hands down by one's side, that is, without use of natural stabilizing factors."

What Does This Mean?

Balance and stability are known to be affected by alcohol use, but most people believe that returning to a sober state will also return oneself to a normal ability to balance and walk. This new study, however, suggests that chronic alcoholism can result in permanent instability, even after long-term sobriety. Although alcoholic men and women can improve their balance with prolonged sobriety and the use of stabilizing factors such as well-lit rooms and railings, they may be at a continued increased risk for fall-related injuries and even death.

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