Wet Brain: Can Alcohol Lead To Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?

ByMichele Washington

Wet Brain: Can Alcohol Lead To Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?

Ever wondered why your memory becomes hazy when you get wasted? While everyone gets their fair share of forgetfulness, Wet Brain poses a threat that’s far worse than those few occasions you didn’t remember where you dropped your car keys.

Defining Wet Brain

Also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, the wet brain is a type of brain damage that occurs when individual struggles with heavy alcohol intake over a long period of time.  Wet brain is, in fact, a combination of two conditions – Wernicke’s disease and Korsakoff’s psychosis.

The disease is caused by a lack of thiamine in the body. Thiamine is an essential vitamin that is found in the body’s tissues. The role of thiamine is crucial in the body’s ability to create Adenosine triphosphate(ATP). This molecule is responsible for energy transport within the cell.

Without thiamine, the heart, brain, and nervous system will be unable to function correctly. Since thiamine is not produced by the body, we get it from our diet. The poor diet reduces the body’s thiamine reserve, and this is common among people who struggle with heavy alcohol intake. Excessive intake of alcohol will reduce the thiamine reserve stored in the liver, and a person’s ability to absorb the nutrient.

Wet Brain Symptoms

If you have a wet brain, the following are symptoms that may follow:

  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • laziness
  • Memory loss
  • Confabulation
  • Speech impediment.

As earlier stated, Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome is a combination of two conditions. In the case of Wernicke’s encephalopathy, the brain’s hypothalamus and thalamus are damaged. When the symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy go away, Korsakoff’s psychosis develops due to damage to parts of the brain where memories are created.

Since a person who takes alcohol frequently would normally exhibit the above symptoms, it can be quite difficult to diagnose. The most noticeable difference is that a person suffering from wet brain syndrome will show these symptoms even when they’re not drunk.

How Is Wet Brain Diagnosed?

There isn’t a standard test for diagnosing wet brain syndrome. In most cases, the physician identifies vitamin B deficiency from the patient’s physical appearance, gait, and behavior. If the health provider knows about the patient’s heavy intake of alcohol, he or she may ask for more tests to be performed to determine the level of alcohol brain damage.

The physician will also check for diminished reactions in the patient’s reflexes and examine the eyes for abnormalities. The patient’s neurological system will also be thoroughly examined. Because the syndrome affects parts of the brain that control vital organs, patients with wet brain will show reduced blood pressure and body temperature as well as increased heart rate.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Risk Groups

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is mainly caused by alcoholism. People who misuse alcohol frequently are likely to develop this condition. Another risk group is individuals suffering from malnourishment. Since wet brain is caused by a lack of thiamine in the body, an individual who ingests low levels of thiamine is likely to develop the condition. Other risk groups consist of:

  • AIDS: Individuals with AIDS are more susceptible to vitamin B-1 deficiency.
  • Kidney Dialysis: This procedure reduces the absorption of vitamin B-1.

Prognosis for People with Wet Brain

According to Merck Manuals, about 10 to 20% of patients with Wernicke encephalopathy will die without treatment, while the 80% that survives will develop Korsakoff psychosis. Without treatment, this condition will continue to persist and even worsen, often leading to coma or death.

Unfortunately, it’s not a curable disease. But, progression can be slowed or halted by treatment. That said, complications like memory loss may be irreversible. One thing is sure: it’s not a death sentence. With early detection and prompt treatment, a patient with wet brain will show progress. It is, therefore, essential to seek early treatment.

Also known as alcoholic encephalopathy, Wernicke’s syndrome is terrible news to your brain. It can cause severe damages to your brain and even lead to Korsakoff psychosis, which is longterm. If you develop wet brain symptoms, see a physician immediately.

The best way to prevent this condition is to lay off the excessive intake of alcohol. The more alcohol you take, the higher you’re at risk. Simply put, thiamine and alcohol don’t mix well. Since thiamine has to be ingested from our food, be sure to eat well to keep your body’s supply of thiamine steady.

About the author

Michele Washington administrator