These physical changes to the brain can impact other areas of the body as well. Shaheen Lakhan, MD, PhD, is an award-winning physician-scientist and clinical development specialist. Seek specialized help and let professionals guide you in your recovery.
But, abstaining from alcohol is the key to recovering from wet brain. The only way to arrest its progression is to stop drinking and receive treatment for thiamine deficiency. Read on to learn more about this severe health condition, and how to get help for alcoholism.
Untreated Alcoholism and the Risks of Wet Brain Syndrome
Thiamine is stored in the liver, and by drinking alcohol, it can get depleted. When someone drinks a large amount of alcohol, the enzymes that help turn thiamine into active compounds are prevented from working. Understanding that thiamine is essential for us as a whole is crucial. Chronic alcoholics, especially mush brain in the United States, are at the greatest risk of developing wet brain syndrome or its symptoms. Studies show that alcohol abuse is the leading cause of thiamine deficiency in the United States. There are two main reasons an individual may experience thiamine deficiency during heavy alcohol consumption.
Alcohol affects how the body absorbs thiamine, and people who misuse alcohol are also frequently malnourished, further increasing the problem. Thiamine deficiency causes inflammation called Wernicke encephalopathy. This inflammation eventually causes permanent damage called Korsakoff syndrome.
Talk briefly about the treatment and progression of the disorder.
Treatment of Wernicke’s encephalopathy begins with increased intake of thiamine. Doctors will help patients identify a more well-rounded diet of vitamin B1. These signs — coupled with a doctor’s awareness of the patient’s alcohol addiction —could lead to further neurological testing. Heart rate, eye movements, body temperature, and even a person’s walk could all signal a doctor to a possible thiamine deficiency.
Liberty Ranch helps clients build the behavioral and emotional tools needed to sustain long-term sobriety. You might hear the dated term “wet brain” used in reference to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. However, the term “wet brain” carries and perpetuates stigma by inaccurately conveying that people willfully contract it. The truth is two people can have similar drinking patterns and one will develop Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and the other won’t. It’s a complex condition with many factors and, like alcohol use disorder, no one chooses it.
Once a person has been diagnosed with end stage alcoholism, life expectancy can be as limited as six months. Long-term, heavy drinking can seriously damage your health in various ways. One potential consequence of this pattern of drinking is a condition known informally as wet brain. To keep your risks as low as possible, it’s vital that you seek help sooner rather than later.
- However, after achieving sobriety there is a good chance that brain functioning can be restored, at least mostly.
- It’s also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, alcohol dementia, Korsakoff Psychosis, and more.
- The disease arises mostly in alcoholics who have been drinking excessively for a prolonged period of time.
- Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as irregular eating or eating low-nutrient foods, as is common for people in active alcoholism, can exacerbate the thiamine deficiency caused by consuming too much alcohol.
About 80% of people with alcohol use disorder have a thiamine deficiency, and up to 2% of the total U.S. adult population has Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. However, it is not well understood who has wet brain because of alcohol abuse or from poor nutrition. It is also not possible to accurately estimate who all has wet brain because many people with severe alcoholism do not seek treatment or are homeless and are not evaluated for the condition. However, current statistics show that more men than women have wet brain, and the age groups most affected by the disorder are between the ages of 30 and 70. Approximately 6.2% of Americans aged 18 years old and older meet the clinical criteria for alcohol use disorder.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that approximately 80 to 90 percent of alcoholics with Wernicke’s encephalopathy will go on to develop Korsakoff’s psychosis. For alcoholics, the alcohol itself interrupts the body’s ability to properly absorb Vitamin B1. Because of this, many of those who frequently consume large amounts of alcohol or who engage in excessive binge drinking may develop Wet Brain. Every cell in the body needs vitamin B1 (thiamine) in order to function. This workhorse vitamin converts food into energy in the brain, nerves and heart.
How do you get rid of brain fog from alcohol?
Alcohol also affects the histamine and serotonin levels in the brain, and when combined with dehydration, makes the whole thing worse. “Be conscious of adding electrolytes to your diet your electrolytes. Focus on rehydrating your cells, especially if you're struggling with brain fog.
While Korsakoff psychosis is less likely to cause a coma or death than Wernicke encephalopathy, it is a form of brain damage that will normally require someone to be constantly taken care of. Wernicke’s encephalopathy devolves into Korsakoff’s psychosis when wet brain goes undiagnosed and untreated. At this stage, a person with this condition might https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/what-spiritual-malady-means/ find it difficult to walk or become confused when engaging in daily activities such as getting dressed. Around 80 to 90% of people with alcohol use disorder who have Wernicke’s encephalopathy develop Korsakoff’s psychosis. If a person is exhibiting signs of wet brain, they will need to be treated for nutritional deficiencies in a hospital.
However, thiamine does little to help with Korsakoff’s psychosis as it can’t help to reverse memory loss. An addiction treatment program can help you access the tools and resources you need, ranging from detox programs to mental health services, that will help you overcome your addiction. There are two distinct phases in the progression of wet brain or Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.
Raising awareness around eating disorders is essential for breaking the stigma and allowing people to seek treatment. Blood testing can provide key insights into a person’s thiamine levels and other general nutrition. Decreased red blood cell activity could be an indicator of thiamine deficiency. While some effects of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome may be permanent, the best way to avoid further damage is to stop drinking safely, with professional help, and to embrace a life in recovery.
A brain scan may show evidence of wet brain, due to brain swelling from Wernicke encephalopathy; however, most doctors diagnose the condition by examining the list of symptoms. Treatment typically involves ingesting thiamine, either intravenously, intramuscularly, or orally, depending on how the person will best tolerate the vitamin. Although treatment will not change brain damage or memory loss that occurs from Korsakoff’s psychosis, it can prevent or delay any further progression of wet brain. Wet brain can progress in a specific pattern, or both Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s syndrome can develop together. However, the typical pattern that constitutes wet brain is the development of Wernicke encephalopathy followed by Korsakoff’s psychosis.
The classical manifestations of thiamine deficiency–related
heart disease include increased blood flow through the vessels in the body,
heart failure, and sodium and water retention in the blood. In the brain, thiamine
is required both by the nerve cells (i.e., neurons) and by other supporting
cells in the nervous system (i.e., glia cells). Excessive alcohol abuse can lead to brain damage both directly and indirectly. Long-term alcohol abuse can affect how the body uses, absorbs and holds thiamine.
Untreated, long-term alcoholism can result in a host of negative consequences, from social isolation and unemployment to fatal cirrhosis of the liver. Wet brain syndrome is one of the physical risks of alcoholism that can’t be treated once it has progressed past a certain point. If left untreated, these symptoms can progress into the second, more severe phase of wet brain, known as Korsakoff’s psychosis. The best way to find out if you have wet brain or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is to see a doctor. Your doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and help you find treatment for alcohol addiction once your physical health has recovered. Wernicke-Korsakoff is a rare memory disorder that occurs due to a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) and malnutrition.