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Rapidly losing muscle mass...

Old 08-01-2011, 11:40 PM
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Rapidly losing muscle mass...

Over the last several months, I've been watching some very worrying changes in my husband that are consistent with end-stage alcoholism. Aside from all that, I knew that he'd been losing some muscle tone, and at first didn't worry too much about it because he's no longer working in a busy OR where he had constant motion, and before that he worked in a TV shop where he did a lot of lifting. He's always been lean, but used to have a 56" chest and 25" bicep, and you could easily see every well-rounded muscle in his legs.

Obviously, he used to be able to make me (of 39" chest and 15" bicep) feel awfully small, which is something I've always enjoyed. Lately I've been feeling larger and larger, and at first thought I must be feeling fat because I had a baby eight months ago and I was still a couple jeans sizes larger than I was pre-baby. Now I'm back in pre-baby jeans, and have been going to yoga regularly so my measurements are improving rapidly even from that (by the way, I highly recommend yoga to those dealing with A's and need something that really will force you to relax). Next to him in bed or hugging him, I still felt nearly the same size as him (he's also 9" taller).

It wasn't until tonight that I really got a full appreciation for the extent of the changes. After he'd gone to bed, he came wandering back out in his underwear. Part of it is probably because he's been drinking tonight (first night in a while since we've been chronically out of money), but I was struck speechless by his appearance. His arms and legs are close to the same size as mine now, and his skin hangs loose where well-developed muscle used to be. His chest is sunken, and his head looks far too large for his body. The only thing big about him is his belly, which isn't overly huge, but can be likened to my 4-month baby bump.

I know he's in bad shape -- and I really wish he could see what I saw just a short while ago, as opposed to what he looked like even a year ago. I'm curious if anyone else has experienced this kind of muscle loss with their A's? While I'm not a medical professional, I am a health writer, and I know enough to know that that does not bode well for his heart, or for his alcohol tolerance. I've accepted that there's no road back, but I'm still feeling my way on the road forward.
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Old 08-02-2011, 01:04 AM
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I have no personal experience with this, but honor your acceptance and quest for sanity in this insane situation. Maybe talk to some Hospice folks, or whoever your regular contact is, tell them you're doing research for a piece.

Have you talked to him about final wishes? He probably knows he's dying too, doesn't he?

Stay strong Sister.
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Old 08-02-2011, 01:24 AM
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YES...I have seen it with my own eyes

My xah use to have biceps, that I couldnt even reach my hand around the top of them
He is almost 7' and had a body to be desired. Pure muscle all the way around!

The past 2 years, his drinking progressed. He began to loose weight, then stopped.
He had bowel & stomach issues, like heart burn & acid reflex. Would throw up
at the slighest thing he ate.
Then his muscle tissue began to get smaller.
His arms became bone & flesh. The flab was under the arm.
His buttocks became flat.

He dropped 2 sizes in jeans. Even though the muscle tone was gone, he had
a belly like he was 8 month pregnant.

It was sad to see

Then the past year, he got alot weaker. He couldnt lift heavy stuff like he use to do.

He began to loose his appetite more and more, the drinking got worse. He was
sneaking it more. He switched to Vodka about this time, which I didnt know it then

Just last week, his neice told me that he doesnt eat much anymore, he is very weak
at times and has even became very slow at walking.
The drinking has gotten worse.

He takes a prescription for anti-acids, the stomach issue has been a long term
problem. Last year, he couldnt even keep water down him, because from his thoart
to his stomach, the lining was raw. He was hospitalized for this. His body became
completley dehydrated.

He was wearing 42" jeans, now wearing 36"....

So YES, I have seen this...It is not pretty and there is nothing you can do

It is their choice to drink their lives & bodies away...

It sucks I know!!

I use to call mine, MY SUPERMAN, but not anymore. The last time I saw
him in underwear..I thought of "CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS"
Sorry, to laugh, but I really did. I didnt tell him that, but I sure thought it!!!
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:31 AM
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my AH has always been a big guy. after the first round in detox and not drinking for 3 months, he replaced it with eating. eating and doing nothing. he started to gain weight but lost tons of muscle mass. his sking hangs like i've never seen it before. its not a pretty picture. i try to get him to do things around house, encourage him to walk the dog every day, ask him to go for walks....anything to get some sort of exercise. but he would just rather sit in his garage, drink, smoke pot and eat himself into a coma. i still love him and care about him but all of my experiences with his alcoholism are making me want to run in the other direction. not because of how he looks, but more because of how he is behaves. i want more for myself......
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:51 AM
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yes. My incredible shrinking man was never large (5'10" 160 lb), but if he gets any smaller I will have to buy his pants in the kids' section. I wish that was joke, but he's become so thin I have trouble getting him pants in the men's section.

Looking at his belt you can see how he is changing from the wear and tear. He's also got sorta a humped back/neck/shoulders that you sometimes see in men much older.

He eats way less than I do, although he still walks the dog.

Before he was hospitalized he was constantly clearing his throat and had trouble swallowing too. They did all sorts of tests but I never heard of any determination around it, unless the doctors told him when I wasn't there. He left the hospital on a pablum type diet. His throat got better and he could eat normally after about a month.

It's scary to watch.
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Old 08-02-2011, 06:01 AM
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There are many symptoms for late stage alcoholism ... including muscle atrophy, especially of the arms and legs. A swollen belly can be a symptom of acsites or fluid retention due to liver disease. My late husband had both of these along with many other symptoms. He also became mentally confused and had serious short term memory problems.

He developed assorted digestive problems as well and he became anemic because of his inability to properly absorb certain vitamins and nutrients. He also developed vision problems related to this problem. Blood tests need to specifically be ordered to look for anemia - as it is not an uncommon problem for alcoholics, but one that is rarely mentioned. This problem can easily be improved with multiple vitamins especially B vitamins. He also developed pneumonia - another symptom of alcohol damage. He developed jaundice after taking Cymbalta for just a few short weeks - it improved after he stopped taking it - but never completely went away. They later put much stronger warnings on this drug regarding alcohol use.

At first my AH thought his weaker, thinner arms and legs ... and what appeared to be weight gain around his stomach - was all due to lack of exercise. Even his doctor missed the signs. His belly continued to enlarge ... and when I noticed his ankles swelling, I knew it had to be something serious. After an ultrasound, it was confirmed to be fluid retention due to liver damage. He was given diuretics that resulted in a loss of over 30 lbs of fluid in a few weeks ... but was told his belly would never completely go away. Once my AH thought he had developed life threatening symptoms, he was actually frightened enough to seek medical help, but unfortunately, it was too late for him. A short while after this diagnoses, he passed away due to a variety of reasons all alcohol related, including cirrhosis.

It seemed almost impossible to believe - but he had been sober and healthy for 2 years prior and then relapsed. After over 25 years of alcohol abuse, and almost no health problems ... when he relapsed, his health deteriorated and declined rapidly. He went from strong, energetic and working long hours ... to sickly, confused and frail in just a few short years.

At this point, in your situation, a loss of some muscle mass and a small belly may not mean anything serious - it could be just getting older or lack of exercise ... or it is possible they are symptoms related to alcohol abuse.

There is a lot of information on the web about late stage alcoholism and related health problems ... and if possible - you may want to recommend he see a doctor ... and make sure the doctor knows his history with alcohol. Of course, realizing with an alcoholic and their never ending denial, it could be a waste of time to even suggest medical help.

By the time my AH finally realized just how sick he really was, despite all the previous warnings and escalating symptoms, for him, it was too late to recover ... too late to make the changes that could have saved his life.
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Old 08-02-2011, 06:15 AM
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Seeking Wisdom: Thank you for your post. I am sorry for your loss.

You are right. He won't go to a doctor.

I've made vitamins available, but he doesn't take them.

It's sad, all I can do is make healthy meals and hope he eats them.

That's when I have to work my program the hardest.
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Old 08-02-2011, 06:23 AM
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I guess it's common sense that if alcohol replaces nutrition, the body suffers. In addition to losing muscle mass and attacking the body for protein since there is too little protein in the diet, alcoholism can also include neuropathies due to vitamin deficiencies, which also result in weakness due to the nerves not properly functioning.

I suppose while he is shrinking, baby is growing like a weed. Last count, there were two teeth. Do we have crawling to a pull-up yet?

CLMI
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Old 08-02-2011, 08:09 AM
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my AH has a blood disease already that his fathe died from. alcohol is by far the worst thing he can do. this disease attacks the liver...now throw in a 1/5 of vodka a day and he's driving himself to the graveyard a lot sooner than need be. but he's given up and doesn't care anymore if he lives or dies. he has no desires or dreams or goals, no passions, no future to look forward to. alcohol has taken all of that away. he's going to die young like his dad. god i wish he would just wake up and listen to me. but i know it doesn't work that way. i just feel in my heart that he will not be one of the successful RA's. he will always drink. its very sad.
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Old 08-02-2011, 08:46 AM
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I cannot add much to what has already been said excep to reinforce tat these are all symptoms of alcohilism. End stage? Only a Dr. can say, but if he decides to embrace a Dr. to get well please be sure he gets one that knows alcoholism and addiction. As SeekingWisdom pointed out it is not unusual for a Dr. to miss symptoms.

Good luck.
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Old 08-02-2011, 11:53 AM
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I've noticed the same thing. And like dgillz said, only a physician could say if its "end stage" but it is certainly a physical manifestation of the progression of alcoholism. When alcohol consumption is increased, the body mistakenly treats empty calories as nutrition...shutting down the body's hunger response. I suppose if you couple that with the complete lack of movement required from going on a five day bender and only getting out of bed to drink, use the restroom and smoke...you are going to lose a lot of muscle tone (I speak only from my personal experience and observations)

I recently gave the A in my life a hug and just felt a little disturbed. Not a whole lot of substance there anymore - just skin and bones. I've also noticed some clubbing of his nails...another physical manifestation of the disease.

Sad.
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Old 08-02-2011, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by transformyself View Post

Have you talked to him about final wishes? He probably knows he's dying too, doesn't he?

Stay strong Sister.
I have, but only in the context of "You never know what might happen." He refuses to see any other problem, and adamantly refuses to see a doctor for anything. "It's about like taking your car to the mechanic and saying, 'See if you can find something wrong.'" He even goes so far as to say he's in peak health and doesn't have a beer belly.

SeekingWisdom, I've considered the possibility of ascites, especially since this has been very fast -- he lost his job eight months ago, but has stayed relatively active with yard work, cooking, cleaning, and child care when he's not in an alcoholic haze. In just the past 4-5 months this severe drop in muscle mass has occurred and the growth in the belly, and I know it's not fat -- we're eating more fruits and vegetables now than ever, and we're both eating very reasonable portions of lean meat and whole grains. However, what you mentioned about anemia and nutrition deficiencies struck a chord -- one thing I have noticed is that a couple of years ago he was very good at taking his multivitamin, and often reminded me about mine. In about the past six months, I've probably seen him take it less than half a dozen times. Now I'm curious if that could be one reason for his rapid deterioration.

The other thing that struck me is your description of how much faster he deteriorated after a period of sobriety. In the past approximately 2 1/2 years, he was sober for a three-month period before he got his last job, then again for about two months after baby was born. Now due to money issues he's been forced to 4-5 really heavy drinking days a month (a fifth of whiskey and a 6-pack a day), whereas before he drank an average of 29 days a month, and generally about a pint of whiskey and a six-pack a day. Not only has the amount on his drinking days increased (even though actual days have decreased because we keep running out of money), he has gone from drinking a mid-level brand to the absolute cheapest bottom-of-the-barrel crap he can find. Before all that he was drinking steadily for about 30 years without any significant breaks that I know of.
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Old 08-02-2011, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by catlovermi View Post
I suppose while he is shrinking, baby is growing like a weed. Last count, there were two teeth. Do we have crawling to a pull-up yet?

CLMI
And now there are six teeth! I couldn't believe it (just found out two days ago, as a matter of fact). I'd been told that my husband's previous kids, and both of us as babies, cut teeth early and in groups. My son's teeth cut in pairs. She's been really cranky that last couple of weeks, and then a couple of days ago I was playing with her and lifted her above the level of my head where she was facing the window. She grinned, and gave me a very clear view of the lovely row of FOUR top teeth all cleanly cut through.

She still refuses to crawl, but finally got to the point that she'll fold herself over while she's sitting and have one leg and her arms in a good crawling position (she's plenty strong enough for it)...and the other leg pinned under her facing straight forward. Nothing thrills her more than being supported in a standing position, and now she's learned how to move her feet while standing, and is upset whenever we set her on the floor instead of her walker. I have a sneaking suspicion she'll be toddling in no time :P.
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Old 08-02-2011, 12:16 PM
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Once my AH thought he had developed life threatening symptoms, he was actually frightened enough to seek medical help
There is an old James Cagney movie called Come Fill the Cup, about alcoholism and recovery. As I recall, it was a pretty good movie. One line I remember is a dry alcoholic saying that he got sober after he heard angel's wings. In other words, he almost had to die before getting sober.

I think that's what it will take for my AW to give it up, if she ever does. She has a phobia of cancer, but apparently has no fear of what alcohol can do to the body. I imagine that, if her doctor were to tell her that vodka had given her some kind of cancer, she'd finally be scared enough to quit.

It's kind of sad, really.
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Old 08-02-2011, 04:10 PM
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I forgot to say that the liver makes digestive enzymes, so if he has liver damage and the liver can't make adequate enzymes, even if he's eating well he may not be digesting and then absorbing enough nutrients, so in effect may have alcoholic malnutrition.

CLMI
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Old 08-02-2011, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by catlovermi View Post
I forgot to say that the liver makes digestive enzymes, so if he has liver damage and the liver can't make adequate enzymes, even if he's eating well he may not be digesting and then absorbing enough nutrients, so in effect may have alcoholic malnutrition.

CLMI
Ah, I hadn't thought of that either -- I'm sure even if he's still digesting well, he has some malnutrition issues. He eats a good, well-balanced diet...for about one meal a day. Some days he eats two meals, but not often. When he's drinking, if he eats at all it's usually a few pieces of lunch meat or something similar that he can easily snitch out of the fridge, and that's about once every couple of days. If there's a plus side, it's that between that and Bountiful Baskets, our food bill for a family of four is about $100 a month.
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Old 08-03-2011, 01:11 AM
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To TeM: You might want to mention to your AH that it's pretty much established that alcoholism can/will lead to cancer. My former boyfriend died of testicular cancer at the age of 54. He and I drank together, but I got sober around the time he was diagnosed. I was fortunate that I was still in good health at the time. My boyfriend would not go to a doctor although he had serious symptoms like internal bleeding and, finally, the inability to drink any alcohol without serious stomach problems. When he finally went to the doctor, the cancer had spread and was incurable. He lived two years and went through excruciatingly painful procedures before he died. So, if your AH is scared of cancer, she should be.
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Old 08-03-2011, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by wywriter View Post
He eats a good, well-balanced diet...for about one meal a day. Some days he eats two meals, but not often.
Sounds like the very first thing is he just isn't eating the volume of food for his body. I'd lose weight on one meal a day, too! But I suppose at this time it's rather moot - he'll do what he's going to do.


Originally Posted by wywriter View Post
She still refuses to crawl... and is upset whenever we set her on the floor instead of her walker. I have a sneaking suspicion she'll be toddling in no time :P.
LOL, she sounds so cute. Frustration can be a great motivator!

------------

On the thermostat: I suppose google is your friend. If you own the home and therefore can't just call a landlord to fix it, I googled (how to install thermostat) and there are any number of articles and youtubes showing how to install one. Just remember to cut off the main power first! Until then, if the heater runs, you can try flipping the breaker to cut power to the furnace, if you're getting cooked.

The fact that he passes out means his liver is not able to keep the blood from being toxic, so when he drinks, his blood gets toxic, and this interrupts the brain cell function when they are basically poisoned, causing him to pass out. Over an extended time, the weak liver eventually clears the toxins, re-adjusting the blood chemistry, causing the brain to regain consciousness. The liver in essence functions to clean and maintain blood chemistry, so when it's not working properly, the blood gets all off kilter, and part of that can also be loss of appetite - in a healthy person there are hunger inducing hormones in the blood that stimulate appetite when they hit the appetite center in the brain.
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Old 08-03-2011, 05:21 PM
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She is adorable -- full of personality and lets everyone know that the world is going to go HER way :P. I'm sure I won't be quite so amused when she's a teenager, but I'm loving it for now .

We rent the house, but for things like completely smashed thermostats I am hesitant to call property management. I doubt we have to worry about any issues because the landlord loves the fact that we actually take care of the yard and keep the place clean (apparently this place has a long history of bad renters), but we don't really need the hassle. Luckily he's more than qualified to fix it when he's sober, but I'll definitely figure out where the circuit breaker is in case anything else happens. I do NOT want to have it running right now! Luckily the other half of the house (where the kids' room is) has a separate gas "fireplace" heater, so if nothing else they'll be warm if it gets cold at night before it's fixed.

Yeah, I'd say his liver has about had it with him -- even a year ago he'd only even stumble if he drank a fifth, now a pint has him falling all over the place and passing out, even if he does eat a hefty meal before he drinks (rare). It's been a toss-up whether liver or kidneys would go first; up until baby was born and he lost his job, he was taking about 2400mg of Ibuprofen per day too. Nope, that's not an exaggeration -- he'd take 12-pill doses to try to get his knees to stop hurting so much (the ones that were supposed to be replaced 10 years ago. I understand not wanting to get major surgery, but...)
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