The significance of folate deficiency in alcoholic and nutritional neuropathies: analysis of a case

Nutrition. 2012 Jul;28(7-8):821-4. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2011.11.022. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Objective: To elucidate the significance of folate deficiency in alcoholic and nutritional neuropathies.

Methods: We preformed a comprehensive clinical screening of a patient with chronic alcoholism who manifested neuropathy, macrocytic anemia, liver dysfunction, and folate deficiency.

Results: A 33-y-old woman with chronic alcoholism presented with acutely progressive glove- and stocking-type sensorimotor polyneuropathy. Although an episode of neuropathy preceded the current episode by 2 y, its cause was never determined. The findings of nerve conduction studies were indicative of axonal neuropathy. Laboratory findings revealed macrocytic anemia and liver dysfunction. Her serum level of folate was reduced, whereas thiamine, riboflavin, and cobalamin levels were within normal range. The neuropathy and anemia showed gradual recovery after the initiation of folic acid supplementation.

Conclusions: This case study indicates that folate deficiency should be monitored closely in patients with chronic alcoholism and associated malnutrition. Additionally, folate deficiency should be considered as a differential diagnosis of neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholic Neuropathy / diagnosis
  • Alcoholic Neuropathy / etiology
  • Alcoholism / blood
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Anemia, Macrocytic / etiology
  • Anemia, Macrocytic / prevention & control
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Folic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / complications
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / diet therapy
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / etiology
  • Polyneuropathies / diagnosis
  • Polyneuropathies / etiology*
  • Polyneuropathies / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Folic Acid