Alcoholic Wet Brain
Alcoholism and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
If you’re affected by alcoholism, you run the risk of developing a wide variety of serious health problems. These problems can occur in systems throughout your body, as well as in your brain. One very serious potential brain effect is the development of something called alcoholic wet brain. The official name for this condition is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Unless it is properly treated, this syndrome can have severe or even fatal consequences.
When it comes to alcoholic wet brain, the best possible solution is prevention. Once you develop the condition, appropriate medical care can save your life. However, it may not completely restore your normal brain function. This fact underscores the need for prompt treatment of serious alcohol problems. You can find this treatment in a well-designed alcohol rehab program.
What Is Wet Brain?
Alcoholic wet brain is the result of a serious, long-term lack of adequate amounts of vitamin B1. This vitamin is also known as thiamine. Your body cannot make its own thiamine. Instead, you must get it from certain foods in your diet. Examples of these foods include:
- Poultry and red meat
- Dried beans
- Whole grain cereals
Every organ in your body needs vitamin B to maintain its normal function. That includes your brain. Unfortunately, alcohol interferes with your ability to process this vitamin and receive its benefits. If you only drink occasionally or in moderate amounts, this interference is temporary and minor. However, if you drink heavily and often, the end result can be a clinical thiamine deficiency. In addition, many people with alcoholism do not get enough thiamine in their diets. This is typically part of a larger problem with nutrient deficiency.
Is Alcohol Abuse Linked to Wet Brain?
In a worst-case scenario, alcohol abuse and chronic thiamine deficiency can lead to alcohol wet brain. Why is this possible? Every cell in your brain needs thiamine on an ongoing basis. That is not only true for the organ’s primary nerve cells, or neurons. It is also true for the brain structures that support those neurons. Chronic, severe deficiency robs your brain cells of some of their most basic function. This level of deficiency is strongly liked to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
What Are the Signs of Wet Brain?
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is named for its two parts or phases. The first of these phases is Wernicke’s encephalopathy. This term refers to swelling and damage in two parts of your lower brain: the thalamus and hypothalamus. Potential symptoms of that damage include:
- Unusual problems controlling your eye movements
- Double vision
- Loss of your normal sense of body balance
- Leg tremors caused by lack of proper muscle coordination
- Feelings of confusion or mental disorientation
- A mild form of memory loss
- Significant, unexplained weight loss
Confusion and disorientation are the most common symptoms. In extreme cases, they may lead to a coma, or even kill you. You may or may not experience any of the other Wernicke’s-related problems.
If left untreated, Wernicke’s encephalopathy can lead to Korsakoff syndrome. You may also see this condition referred to as Korsakoff psychosis. What is Korsakoff psychosis or Korsakoff syndrome? It is the result of permanent brain damage in your memory centers caused by Wernicke’s encephalopathy. Possible Korsakoff-related symptoms include:
- Continued confusion
- Potentially severe memory loss
- Loss of the ability to create new memories
- Unintentional creation of false memories
- Visual or sound-based hallucinations
Memory loss and continued confusion are the most likely of these symptoms to occur. Be aware that you can develop Korsakoff syndrome without ever having experienced Wernicke’s encephalopathy.
Origin and History of the Wet Brain Diagnosis
Doctors sometimes have problems diagnosing the first stage of wet brain, Wernicke’s encephalopathy. These problems can be made worse by the presence of large amounts of alcohol in your system. That is true because people affected by Wernicke’s may simply appear to be intoxicated. In some cases, symptoms of the condition may also seem similar to the effects of alcohol withdrawal.
If your doctor suspects that Wernicke’s is present, you may be hospitalized for a diagnosis. Proper diagnosis requires the elimination of drunkenness as a potential cause of your symptoms. Doctors sometimes use brain scans for this purpose. Your doctor will also check your vitamin B1 levels.
People with Korsakoff syndrome are often in poor physical shape. As a result, they may only be properly diagnosed after entering a hospital for treatment of related symptoms. To make their diagnosis, doctors look for these symptoms. They also check your history of alcohol use. In addition, some people receive a brain scan.
Alcohol Dementia Vs. Wet Brain
Wet brain can mimic some of the key effects of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. For this reason, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is sometimes referred to as alcohol-related dementia. However, by itself, chronic heavy drinking is an identified dementia risk. This means that the terms alcohol dementia and wet brain are not entirely synonymous. Alcohol can be a contributing factor to dementia whether or not you develop Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Are The Symptoms of Wet Brain Reversible?
Is it possible to reverse the symptoms of wet brain? The answer to this question is yes. The key to reversing the effects of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is rapid detection. As a rule, this means catching the condition while it is still in the Wernicke’s stage. Once Korsakoff syndrome appears, you can easily develop irreversible brain damage. Doctors first seek to halt the progression of wet brain. They then do what they can to help you restore as much normal function as possible.
What Are Effective Treatments for Wet Brain?
Effective treatments for wet brain are available. The first goal is to restore your body’s thiamine levels to normal. This requires two things. First, you must stop drinking alcohol. Unless you do so, any thiamine supplements you receive will not have their desired effects. When given, these supplements can potentially ease some of the symptoms of Wernicke’s.
Once your thiamine levels have begun to rise, your doctor may also provide you with other nutritional supplements. The exact supplements needed will depend on details of your personal situation. You may also need IV fluids to help you recover from alcoholism-related dehydration.
How thorough is a recovery from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome? The answer to that question varies from person to person. By quitting drinking, you may stop any additional brain or nerve damage from occurring. Prompt treatment may also help you recover some of your lost memory function. However, this recovery typically takes a long time. In addition, affected people do not usually experience a full return to a normal state.
Preventing Wet Brain From Occurring
It is possible to prevent wet brain from occurring. The only reliable method of achieving this goal is not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. If you are affected by alcoholism, enrollment in a treatment program is by far your best option.
The first step is to detox from alcohol while under medical supervision. This supervision will help keep your withdrawal symptoms under control. It will also safeguard from any complications that may occur during withdrawal.
Successful detox is followed by active alcohol treatment. This treatment often involves the use of medication to help lower your relapse risks. It also typically involves some form of psychotherapy. The goals of therapy may include things such as:
- Improving your understanding of how alcoholism affects you
- Increasing your inner motivation to stop drinking
- Helping you reach specific treatment goals while in your program
- Understanding how your thoughts, emotions and behaviors may support alcoholism
- Learning how to change those thoughts, emotions and behaviors in positive ways
- Developing real-world coping skills that support your ongoing sobriety
Your recovery plan may also include enrollment in a 12-step program or other mutual self-help groups. When combined with other treatment, participation in this kind of group increases your chances of staying sober.
Long-Term Recovery From Alcoholism Is Possible at The Discovery House
Alcoholic wet brain is an uncommon but severe potential result of alcoholism. This condition typically has two phases, and grows worse over time. Left untreated, it can lead to an extensive decline in your normal ability to function. Ultimately, you can also die from its effects. Prevention is the best way possible to avoid such a catastrophic chain of events. And if you are affected by alcoholism, effective prevention almost certainly requires formal alcohol treatment.
At The Discovery House, we specialize in comprehensive alcohol treatment. Your recovery journey begins in our alcohol detox program. There, you will get the help you need to reach initial sobriety. We then follow up with active treatment of your condition. Depending on your needs, you may need to enroll in our inpatient program. You may also be a suitable candidate for intensive outpatient care.
The Discovery House takes a holistic approach. This means that we treat your whole person, not just your addiction. Our list of available complementary treatments includes everything from yoga to anger management. In all cases, these treatments are designed to support your overall recovery goals. For more details on our available alcoholism treatments, contact us today. We’re standing by to assist you.