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Is Dementia Caused By Alcohol

What Are The Primary Symptoms Of Alcoholic Dementia

Does Alcohol Consumption Cause Dementia?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes alcohol dementia as a condition that results in multiple cognitive deficits. Among its symptoms are:

  • Impaired memory including being unable to recall previously learned information and learn new information
  • Aphasia a language disturbance that makes it difficult for a person to express themselves in words
  • the inability to carry out tasks despite showing interest or having the physical ability to perform them
  • Agnosia an impaired ability to recognize objects, faces, voices, or places
  • Poor executive functioning struggling with mental skills that help you manage tasks, like planning and organizing

A person with alcohol-induced dementia will exhibit these symptoms even when they arent intoxicated or undergoing withdrawal. They will also suffer a significant decline in function.

That being said, alcohol dementia can produce a range of symptoms. It depends on which areas of the brain are affected and how severe the condition is. Below are common types of alcoholic dementia and some early signs you can watch out for.

Alzheimers Disease

People with Alzheimer’s will struggle to make sense of their environment. Memory lapses are also common in the early stages of this condition. For instance, they might forget about a recent conversation or ask the same question repeatedly.

Other early signs of Alzheimers include:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Abnormal eye movement
  • Inability to move eyes

What Is The Treatment For Alcohol

According to the treatment guideline for Alcohol-related Dementia, the initial stage requires the patient to abstain from alcohol completely and stabilise their health. It is preferred that patients suffering from Alcohol-related dementia are admitted to the hospital during this stage.

Alcohol withdrawal is a very painful process. The patient usually ends up in delirium. During which, they become increasingly confused and distracted. They also suffer from disorientation and mood swings. The signs in such patients include increased heart rate, increased sweating and general anxiety. Delirious patients also hallucinate sometimes.

During the treatment, the patient is administered a drug that mimics the effect of alcohol on the brain to ease the pain of withdrawal symptoms. The patient is then slowly weaned off from these drugs and they are monitored closely at this time. In a hospital setting the patient is also administered salts, fluids, and high levels of vitamin B1 through IV.

The treatment of Alcohol-related Dementia is not limited to medication, the patient also needs therapeutic support. Namely, counselling or one-on-one therapy that encourages an alcohol-free lifestyle. Furthermore, the patient should join group therapy sessions once they are discharged from the hospital facility.

Effects Of Alcohol On Alzheimers Pathology

Regarding effects of alcohol on Alzheimers disease -related pathophysiology, only scarce and contradictory evidence exists: in rats, alcohol application leads to higher acetylcholine release in the hippocampus in low concentrations, while higher concentrations inhibit acetylcholine release. The hippocampus is affected early in Alzheimers disease by formation of neurofibrillary tangles and neurodegeneration, leading to the typical early symptom of disability to memorize new information.

Findings from transgenic mouse models and cell culture models of AD are contradictory. One study on transgenic AD-mice and hippocampal cell cultures established a possible mechanism of lower Aß-toxicity through alcohol administration by reducing Aß-induced synaptic failure, another study argued that Aß-aggregation is reduced in cell cultures treated with alcohol. However, findings from experiments conducted in a different transgenic mouse model fed with alcohol showed higher expression of APP and ß-secretase with consecutively elevated amyloid deposition and neurotoxicity.

Alcohol is supposed to enhance neuroinflammation and thereby enhancing neurotoxicity of the ß-amyloid cascade. In vitro studies suggest that alcohol might impede phagocytosis of ß-amyloid by microglia and thereby promote Alzheimers disease.

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Other Harmful Brain Effects Of Chronic Alcohol Use

Alcohol-related dementia isnt the only consequence of long-term alcohol use. By causing extensive damage to the brain, alcohol can either lead to mental health problems or worsen pre-existing conditions such as anxiety, depression, and bipolardisorders.

Alcohol is a dangerous and addictive substance with long-term consequences. Thankfully, most of these complications can be alleviated with early diagnosis and substance use treatment. If you have an alcohol problem, or if you suspect misuse in a loved one, find a health professional that can provide medical advice.

In this article

What Are The Symptoms

What is Alcohol Dementia

This can vary from person to person, but generally symptoms will include:

  • Impaired ability to learn things
  • Personality changes
  • Problems with memory
  • Difficulty with clear and logical thinking on tasks which require planning, organising, common sense judgement and social skills
  • Problems with balance

Generally skills learned earlier in life and old habits such as language and gestures tend to be relatively unaffected.

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Common Symptoms Of Alcoholic Dementia

Alcoholic induced dementia, not unlike Korsakoffs syndrome, relates primarily to problems associated with an individuals brain and its functions. The majority of early symptoms would hardly be noticed by anyone who wasnt a professional. This can result in alcoholic dementia severely taking hold of the individuals brain before any medical help has been introduced. These symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Becoming too impulsive, poor decision making or risk assessments (e.g. related to financial decisions.
  • Difficulty controlling all forms of emotions
  • Poor organisation or planning skills
  • Suffer from paying attention even for a couple of minutes and often become slower when responding
  • Lack of or no sensitivity towards other peoples feelings
  • Indulging in inappropriate social behaviour
  • Loss of everyday memory
  • Personality changes
  • Severe problems with balance

General life skills that are learnt in the first three years of life, such as gestures and language genuinely stay unaffected but will take a little longer to complete, for example understand what an individual has said, to think of a logical response, to communicating the response back.

What Is Alcohol Dementia: Causes Symptoms Stages Treatment Complications

We all know about the negative effects of alcohol. It is also true that alcohol can destroy the mental functioning. Alcohol dementia is a kind of brain disorder that is caused due to long exposure to alcohol. If you are interested in knowing more about this condition, then read the following array of the article where we have discussed about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and complications of Alcohol dementia.

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What Is Alcoholic Dementia

Alcoholic dementia involves memory loss and a variety of other cognitive impairments.

Both short- and long-term memory is affected by alcoholic dementia. This means its challenging to learn new information and remember things already learned.

Along with memory issues, there are a host of other cognitive issues.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the official handbook used by the American Psychiatric Association.

According to the DSM-V, a person with alcoholic dementia may exhibit memory impairment and one or more of these cognitive impairments1:

  • Aphasia Loss of ability to use or understand spoken or written language
  • Inability to perform specific physical actions despite will and knowledge to do so and relevant muscles being intact
  • Agnosia Failure to recognize individuals, objects, or sounds, despite senses being functional
  • Executive Functioning Deficits Impaired ability to plan, organize, or think abstractly

Aphasia seems to be less common with alcoholic dementia compared to other dementias.9

What Should I Take Away From This Research

Can Alcohol Abuse Cause Dementia?

The link between alcohol and dementia in non-drinkers however is not fully understood and individuals who do not currently drink alcohol should not start as a method of protection against the development of dementia.

From the evidence collected to date, it is not possible to determine what effect drinking within the NHS recommended alcohol guidelines has on a person’s risk of dementia.

Guidelines recommend that alcohol consumption be reduced as much as possible, particularly in mid-life, to minimize the risk of developing other age-related conditions such as frailty. Current evidence indicates that adopting a healthy lifestyle throughout your life is the best way to reduce risk of dementia and other long-term health problems. This includes drinking in moderation but also other factors such as not smoking, taking plenty of physical exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

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Alcohol Plays A Large Role In Dementia

Even when looking at all types of dementia, alcohol appeared to play a larger part than previously thought. Overall, alcohol use disorders were associated with a threefold increase in the risk of all types of dementia. And importantly, they were found to be the most significant modifiable risk factor for dementia.

When alcohol-related brain damage was excluded, alcohol use disorders still doubled the risk of vascular and other dementias. Even when adjusting the data for confounding variables, the link remained significant.

As mentioned earlier, heavy drinking comes with a constellation of factors that increase dementia risks. In this study, that was confirmed: alcohol use disorders were associated with smoking, depression, lower education, diabetes, and hypertension.

Our findings suggest that the burden of dementia attributable to alcohol use disorders is much larger than previously thought, suggesting that heavy drinking should be recognized as a major risk factor for all types of dementia.

Lead study author Dr. Michaël Schwarzinger

Alcohol Misuse Increases Early

Recent research indicates that alcohol plays a much larger role in early-onset dementia than previously thought. Heavy drinking comes along with a host of other factors that increase dementia risk, including risk-taking behavior, mental illness, lower levels of education, and physical health concerns.

Luckily, alcohol consumption is the single most modifiable risk factor for this condition. This means that, with proper treatment, individuals can prevent further brain damage and increased risk of dementia.

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Can Alcohol Intoxication Cause Dementia

Alcohol dementia can appear to people of all ages, regardless of gender, height or body type. It can result from consuming alcoholic beverages in great quantities, including beer, wine, liquor, spirits, and more. Drinking small amounts of alcohol doesnt lead to this dangerous medical condition, so having a few drinks per week is considered to be safe.

Alcohol-induced dementia can be acquired if one gets intoxicated with alcohol regularly. This type of intoxication depletes the nutrients in the body, causes brain damage and seriously affects the function of major organs such as liver, kidneys, pancreas, and more. Each persons body can handle alcohol intoxication differently, but ultimately too much alcohol can lead to serious health conditions.

Causes Of Alcohol Dementia:

Alcohol Dementia Signs &  Symptoms

We already know that excessive consumption of alcohol for a long period of time can cause alcohol dementia. One of the reasons behind this is that of nutrition. Excess of alcohol can result in a nutritional loss. Thiamine or Vitamin B1, is a vitamin that suffers when an individual consume alcohol for a long time. Alcohol can actually prevent the absorption of Vitamin B1 in the body, that leads to alcohol dementia. Our nerve cells require thiamine to function, and a chronic lack of thiamine results in the problem of dementia.

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How To Prevent Alcohol

The probability of health problems connected to alcohol and cognitive disabilities usually starts from casual drinking. Living a certain lifestyle can expose one to alcoholism, and the more drinks a person takes, the closer they are to alcohol-related health problems, irregular eating habits, and disconnection from the family in some cases. Before the downward spiral from alcoholism, one may abandon family and disconnect from friends and other probable sources of help. It is a fact that those who interact with their family, even with their addictions, have a better chance of beating the addiction. Those who seek help or support promptly may scale through the addiction phase.

The best way to prevent alcohol-induced dementia is to completely abstain from drinking, eat a balanced diet for good health, and seek professional help if necessary.

Hope Without Commitment

Potential Complications Of Alcoholic Dementia

Unless a person stops drinking alcohol, alcohol-related dementia only worsens with time. It can lead to permanent brain damage which consequently, causes them to cease normal functioning.

People with severe dementia symptoms might not be able to:

  • Care for themselves
  • Perform basic activities
  • Recognize friends or family members
  • Communicate what they think or feel
  • Follow instruction
  • Find their way around places

These can lead to complications that reduce a person’s quality of life, such as:

1. Malnutrition

Some types of alcohol dementia cause a person to lose their sense of smell and taste. As food becomes tasteless and they are left to fend for themselves, they might not eat as often, or they might not eat at all. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies, which further aggravate their condition.

Keep in mind that dementia severely affects memory. For example, a person with dementia might not remember what food is for or how to use a spoon.

2. Harm to self and others

A person with severe dementia may suffer from mood swings and a confused mental state, so they are easily agitated. Since they cant make sense of things, situations can quickly escalate into violence where they might hurt themselves or others.

3. Accidental injuries

Alcoholic dementia increases the risk for falls by 2 to 8 times.11 This can be a problem for elderly individuals with degenerative bone disorders. Falls can easily cause fractures if they have osteoporosis or osteoarthritis.

4. Infections

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The Stigma Behind Alcohol

The second problem is that its not easy to talk about alcohol-induced dementia because there is a stigma associated with addiction and with mental health. In my own family, my Dads alcoholism was something that growing up I desperately tried to hide from friends, coworkers, teachers and extended family.

Now, when I tell people my Dad has dementia, I tend to leave out the alcohol part. When we talk to the doctors treating the unique element of this form of dementia knowing that there is some accountability on his part complicates treatment.

But, once you begin talking about it, it becomes easier. You eventually meet other people who are going through something similar. Remember those statistics about Americans and alcoholism?

While scientists have yet to determine why some alcoholics develop alcohol-induced dementia and some dont, theres no doubt that this health issue will continue to grow as alcoholism amongst American seniors continues to skyrocket.

Tips For Managing Dementia And Alcohol Abuse

Is alcohol the leading cause of dementia?

1. Remove all alcohol from the environment

  • Clear out all the alcohol in the home, including cough syrup and other innocent sources
  • Make sure all family and friends know not to buy or bring any alcohol
  • Notify liquor or grocery stores not to deliver alcohol
  • If necessary, restrict access to money that can be used to buy alcohol

Important:Before removing alcohol, check with your older adults doctor to make sure you wont be causing any harm to their health. In some cases, people may experience severe withdrawal or other unintended side effects.

2. Substitute non-alcoholic wine or beerSome people may be at a point in the dementia where they wouldnt notice if their regular drinks were replaced with non-alcoholic or low-alcohol versions.

For wine, you could even disguise the swap by using a regular wine bottle and replacing the contents with non-alcoholic wine.

3. Take safety measures

  • Remove or lock away sharp objects and weapons to prevent injury
  • Secure doors or add door alarms to prevent accidental wandering
  • Lock away cleaning supplies and other toxic liquids they could be confused with drinks

4. Protect yourselfAlcoholism and dementia are two serious conditions that cause angry outbursts or violent behavior in some people. Together, they can cause even worse behavior.

Thats why its important to know your limits and make sure that the situation is safe. If your older adult becomes overly aggressive or violent, its time to remove yourself and seek professional help.

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Strengths And Limitations Of This Study

The present study has several strengths. Repeat assessment of alcohol consumption allowed us to assess mean midlife alcohol consumption in order to minimise biases due to measurement error, examine associations with dementia of trajectories of alcohol consumption between midlife and early old age, and examine whether age modifies associations between alcohol consumption and dementia. These features, along with a mean follow-up period of 23 years, allowed a comprehensive assessment of the association of alcohol consumption with dementia. Besides measurement error, studies that recruit participants at older ages are not able to assess the excess risk in those who change their alcohol consumption with age. We were also able to examine the shape of the association between alcohol consumption > 14 units/week and dementia, which was similar to that reported in a recent meta-analysis.7 Dose-response assessment by meta-analysis can be problematic for heavy alcohol consumption as the estimate is constrained to the mean or median consumption in the high alcohol consumption category.7 Finally, we used multistate models to examine the role of cardiometabolic disease and we undertook further analyses to take the competing risk of mortality into account where results were similar to those obtained using Cox regression, increasing confidence in our main findings.

How Is Arbd Different From Dementia

ARBD doesnt always get worse over time, unlike common causes of dementia such as Alzheimers disease. If a person with ARBD stops drinking alcohol and receives good support, they may be able to make a partial or even full recovery. They may regain much of their memory and thinking skills, and their ability to do things independently.

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Signs You Have A Drinking Problem

If you have an alcohol disorder, medical professionals recommend seeking treatment as soon as possible. Below are six signs of alcoholism you can watch out for:

  • Inability to control your drinking
  • Intense alcohol cravings
  • Experiencing withdrawal when you stop drinking
  • Increasing tolerance to alcohol
  • Impaired decision making
  • Spending more time drinking despite consequences
  • People who misuse alcohol can seek help from treatment facilities that offer inpatient and outpatient rehab programs.

    Those with more severe alcohol use can initially opt for medication-assisted treatment . Medications can reduce alcohol withdrawal and prevent relapse during early recovery. Afterwards, they can proceed with addiction treatment.

    Recovering individuals and chronic alcoholics may also get additional support from sober living homes. Alternatively, you can join self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous . These peer-based systems help patients sustain long-term sobriety after receiving substance use treatment.


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