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What Is Dementia Caused By Alcohol Called

What Is Wet Brain

What Is Alcohol Dementia? | Alcoholism

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome , also referred to casually as wet brain is a severe, life-threatening brain disorder that is actually comprised of two conditions.2

The first part of WKS, Wernickes encephalopathy, is a severe and temporary condition characterized by confusion, loss of muscular coordination, and abnormal eye movements and vision changes.

The second aspect of WKS, Korsakoffs psychosis, often follows or accompanies Wernickes encephalopathy. Korsakoffs psychosis is a persistent, chronic condition that can cause significant impairment in learning and memory and interfere with a persons ability to function normally.1,3 The casual name for WKS, wet brain, was coined because the condition most commonly emerges as a consequence of several years spent abusing alcohol.1,3

The symptoms of WKS actually begin from a deficiency in thiamine that is typically associated with extended heavy alcohol use but may also be caused by malnutrition and other diseases.1,3 Up to 80% of people with severe alcohol use disorder become thiamine deficient.1 A person must be sober when demonstrating symptoms to be diagnosed with wet brain, considering that withdrawal, or medical complications associated with alcohol use can mimic symptoms of WKS.4

Although it is estimated that only 1-2% of the general population develop WKS, those who chronically drink are at a higher risk with prevalence rates estimated around 12-14%.2

What Is The Cause

It is currently unclear as to whether alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the brain cells, or whether the damage is due to lack of thiamine, vitamin B1.Nutritional problems, which often accompany consistent or episodic heavy use of alcohol, are thought to be contributing factors. Key parts of the brain may suffer damage through vitamin deficiencies, particularly marked levels of thiamine deficiency and the direct effect that alcohol has on the absorption and use of thiamine.

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

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The Controversy Of Alcohol

Present diagnostic criteria for alcohol-associated cognitive disorders focus on two main syndromes of impairment: WKS and ARD. ARD has enjoyed little recognition as a discrete clinical entity and this is due mainly to a lack of a distinct pathophysiological profile . Much of the debate surrounding ARD encompasses whether it is possible to have a dementia that is the direct result of ethanol neurotoxicity – a primary alcoholic dementia – or whether the clinical presentation of dementia represents another underlying pathology or multiple factors . Attempts to clarify this have been hindered by confounding factors that often accompany the lifestyles of alcohol abusers, such as head injury, psychiatric and other substance abuse co-morbidities, and a higher rate of vascular risk factors . In some countries, terms such as ‘alcohol-related brain damage’ or ‘alcohol-related brain injury’ are preferred over ARD to reflect the heterogeneity of alcohol-related cognitive disorders in both etiology and clinical presentation .

Getting Help For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction

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It can be difficult to stop using alcohol, even if its causing alcohol-related dementia signs to occur. Anyone with an alcohol use disorder should seek professional medical help to prevent further complications while working toward addiction recovery.

Alcohol addiction treatment options include outpatient and inpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment involves going to regular physical and mental health appointments to get treatment and learn how to overcome alcohol addiction while otherwise keeping any work and social obligations. Inpatient treatment requires more dedication and involves living in a rehab center to get intensive treatment that is more likely to have a lasting effect.

The Recovery Village offers high-quality inpatient and outpatient treatment options across the country. We invite you to contact us to learn how to get started on your journey to lasting recovery from the effects of alcohol addiction.

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Alcohol And Brain Injury

Brain injury can be caused by alcohol because it:

  • has a toxic effect on the central nervous system
  • results in changes to metabolism, heart functioning and blood supply
  • interferes with the absorption of vitamin B1 , which is an important brain nutrient
  • may be associated with poor nutrition
  • can lead to falls and accidents that injure the brain.

Links Between Excessive Alcohol Consumption And Dementia

Most people associate the term dementia with Alzheimers disease, but that is only one form of this brain condition. Dementia is a steady decline in cognitive abilities that affects around 5 percent of older adults2. This disability impairs brain functions like memory and judgment, and can interfere with daily functioning.

A number of factors contribute to dementia, including age, genetics, and smoking. Yet, when looking at all types of dementia, excessive alcohol consumption is an underlying risk factor across the board. Why? Alcohol affects the brain in a few key ways:

  • When alcohol breaks down, it produces acetaldehyde3, a chemical compound toxic to brain cells.
  • Heavy drinking can lead to thiamine deficiency, causing impaired brain function.
  • Alcohol misuse raises the risk of vascular dementia, due to alcohols ability to increase blood pressure.

There are several subtypes of dementia that are directly linked to excessive drinking:

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Who Is More At Risk Of Developing Alcohol

Based on a cross-study analysis, the following increases your risk for alcohol dementia:2

  • If you are male
  • If you have a dual diagnosis
  • If you have other physical conditions that increase your risk for ARD
  • If you are socially isolated
  • If you have a history of brain injury

The presence of more than one risk factor increases the chances of developing alcohol-related dementia. Generally speaking, however, anyone with an alcohol disorder is at risk. This includes people who struggle with alcohol use and addiction.

Is Alcoholic Dementia a Normal Part of Aging?

The risk for dementia increases as you grow old. But contrary to popular belief, it isnt a normal part of aging.10

For instance, the average older adult may forget things from time to time. In comparison, someone with dementia will slowly forget how it’s like to perform basic activities.

At most, the memory problems caused by normal aging will inconvenience you. Dementia impairs cognitive ability in a way that it becomes difficult to function properly.

Alcohol Plays A Large Role In Dementia

Does Alcohol Consumption Cause 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

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Is Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome Reversible

WKS is a potentially reversible condition.2,5,7 The severity of a persons symptoms, how early a person begins treatment, and the type of treatment that they receive can all have a significant impact on whether a case of WKS can be reversed or alleviated.2,4

Some people may make a full recovery, although this is rare. Thiamine therapy will offer varying levels of improvement in symptoms after 5-12 days.6

Lower Your Risk Of Alcohol

If you worry that your heavy drinking habits may lead to long-term health problems like dementia, quitting or cutting back can help. If youre struggling to make a change on your own, Ria Health is one online program that offers customized care from the comfort of your home. Anti-craving medications combined with coaching, medical advice, and other support services are all available through an app on your phone.

Browse our site to learn how it works and contact us to speak with a compassionate member of our team.


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Alcohol Consumption And Arbi

Alcohol is one of the most popular drugs in Australia. Around 40 per cent of Australian adults drink alcohol on a weekly basis and 10 per cent drink every day. Alcohol consumption ranges from light to heavy consumption.Alcohol related brain impairment is more likely to occur if a person drinks heavily on a regular basis over many years. A decline in thinking-related abilities is gradual and depends on how much alcohol is consumed and for how long. It is also possible to develop ARBI over a short period of time, if the drinking is excessive enough. This is known as binge drinking or heavy episodic drinking and is a short-term, high-risk way of drinking alcohol.Men and women who consume more than four standard drinks on any single occasion are at risk. Mixing alcohol and other drugs either illegal drugs or some prescription drugs can cause serious health problems.

How Is Arbd Different From Dementia

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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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Heavy Drinking And Dementia

However, heavy drinking is more robustly linked to an increased risk of dementia. This appears to be for a number of reasons.

Firstly, when alcohol is broken down in the body, it produces acetaldehyde, which is toxic to brain cells. Heavy drinking can also lead to thiamine deficiency and, eventually, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which negatively impacts brain function.

Alcohol misuse is associated with other factors that can influence brain function, such as epilepsy and head injuries. On top of this, alcohol consumption raises the risk of vascular dementia due to its effect on the vascular system as a whole for instance, it increases blood pressure.

Although the above factors adequately explain why alcohol abuse and dementia may be linked, the exact size and scale of the issue is not clear.

Because heavy drinking often comes hand-in-hand with other dementia risk factors including smoking, depression, and low education levels cause and effect are difficult to tease apart.

Recently, researchers from the Translational Health Economics Network in Paris, France, set out to investigate the relationship between alcohol use disorders and early-onset dementia . Their results are published in

What Are The Long

Alcohol-related dementia is a serious condition that can lead to a variety of complications. Because of ARD, the person may not be able to eat properly or digest their food. Some people may not get enough nutrients in their diet because they skip meals. Others may not be able to digest food properly because chronic alcohol misuse damages the pancreas and other organs.

People with alcohol-related dementia are likely to forget to take care of themselves. They may also forget to wash their clothes and other personal items regularly. They end up neglecting personal hygiene tasks such as brushing their teeth, taking a bath or shower, and combing their hair.

Those with alcohol-related dementia are at a significantly higher risk of injuring themselves. For example, they may have trouble coordinating movements normally because of poor muscle control or balance issues resulting from long-term alcohol abuse. They might fall more often or have more difficulty standing up without assistance than other people do. This is especially dangerous if they live alone.

Those who develop ARD are at risk for many health complications, including liver damage or cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and mouth and throat cancers. Other complications that can arise from the disease include anemia, increased risk of cancer, and neurological problems such as strokes and seizures.

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Should Someone With Alzheimers Or Dementia Drink Alcohol

While there is still some debate on whether alcohol can cause Alzheimers disease, there is a clear consensus that those who already have Alzheimers disease or dementia should not drink alcohol. Alcohol causes cognitive impairment that can greatly increase the risk of injury with these conditions. Someone who is drinking may also forget how much alcohol they have consumed, increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol could also speed disease progression.

Types Of Alcohol Induced Dementia And Their Symptoms

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The Alzheimers Society divides alcohol-related, or alcohol-induced Dementia into two main types:

  • Alcoholic Induced Dementia: This is an often fully or partially reversible form of Dementia that may lead to poor planning and organizational skills problems with decision-making and judgment impulsiveness and difficulty controlling emotions attention and reasoning problems lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others and socially inappropriate behavior. This form of Dementia differs from Korsakoff syndrome in that not everyone affected has day-to-day memory loss.

People with Korsakoff Syndrome may also demonstrate these symptoms:

  • Confabulation
  • Some long-term memory gaps
  • Trouble putting words into context
  • Problems understanding or processing knowledge
  • Hallucinations

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How Is Arbd Treated

A person who has ARBD wont only have problems caused by damage to their brain. They will usually also be addicted to alcohol. This means that they have become dependent on it. Addiction can make it much more difficult to treat a person with ARBD. This is because professionals need to treat the persons alcohol addiction together with their symptoms related to memory and thinking.

S In Treatment For Alcohol

The first step in the alcohol abuse treatment process is to detox your body and mind from alcohol or any other harmful substances currently in it. Detox should be done under the care and supervision of trained medical professionals due to the withdrawal symptoms associated with it. This can be done at either a local medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment facility that also provides detox services such as Phoenix Rising. Attempting to self-detox can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening.

The next step in alcohol abuse treatment is to enter into a rehab program that addresses your alcohol issues. In such a rehab program you will meet with a treatment professional who will discuss treatment options with you. The treatment professional will also create an individualized treatment plan for you that works best for you and your needs.

In addition to the addiction therapies and meetings that one will attend while in alcohol addiction treatment, individuals with alcoholic dementia will need to focus on raising their thiamine levels. One can raise his or her thiamine levels with a B1 intake. Raising your B1 levels can help improve memory loss if addressed early enough before Korsakoff psychosis has set in.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Alcohol

Symptoms include difficulties with:

  • staying focused on a task without becoming distracted
  • solving problems, planning and organising
  • setting goals, making judgements and making decisions
  • being motivated to do tasks or activities controlling their emotions they may become irritable or have outbursts
  • understanding how other people are thinking or feeling .

The symptoms of alcohol-related dementia can change a lot from person to person. If a person with the condition has a brain scan, it will often show that some areas of the brain have shrunk much more than others. Alcohol particularly affects the frontal lobes of the brain.

Alcohol-related dementia and memory problems

A person with alcohol-related dementia may also have problems with their memory. They might not be able to understand new information for example, they may quickly forget the details of a conversation. They may also not be able to recall knowledge and events, such as where they lived previously or places where they have been on holiday.

Alcohol-related dementia and balance

A person with alcohol-related dementia may be unsteady on their feet and more likely to fall over even when they are sober. This is because alcohol damages the part of the brain that controls balance, co-ordination and posture.

Alcohol-related dementia and mood

Need more information on mood and behaviour?

Read our advice on supporting a person with dementia who has depression, anxiety or apathy.

Testing And Treatment For Alcoholic Dementia

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There are several medical tests that can be performed to help determine if a person has alcoholic dementia. Examining a persons nervous and muscular system can help shed light on any nerve damage caused by alcoholic dementia. Many physicians will also administer blood tests to test a persons nutrition levels.

Tests that may be used to diagnose alcoholic dementia include:

  • nervous/muscular system testing, such as looking for abnormal eye movement, increased pulse, muscle weakness, and low blood pressure
  • blood testing to detect vitamin B1 levels and transketolase activity
  • liver enzyme testing

If alcoholic dementia is detected and still in the early stages, significant improvement may be made through treatment. Quitting drinking is often the first step in treating this condition. Additionally, thiamine may be administered to improve eye movement and vision problems, confusion, and muscle coordination.

Improvement can take several weeks or months to be felt, and many people will remain in the hospital or treatment facility until their major symptoms subside. Individuals who have been diagnosed with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome may never regain complete cognitive function.

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