29 Sep Understanding Wet Brain Syndrome
Also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, wet brain syndrome is a brain disorder that damages the thalamus and hypothalamus, the cerebral regions that are associated with memory. Caused by a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1), wet brain is usually the result of severe alcoholism.
What Is Wet Brain?
The term wet brain describes a form of dementia, which is more properly called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Wet brain is one of the lesser-known symptoms of alcohol addiction. It’s not as common as some of the others like liver and heart damage. Wet brain is basically caused by a deficiency of thiamine (also known as vitamin B1). It is most commonly found in people with alcohol addiction. Wet brain syndrome is indicative of damage to the lower areas of the brain, specifically the thalamus and hypothalamus. This condition can cause permanent brain damage and chronic memory issues.
Signs and Symptoms of Wet Brain
The symptoms of wet brain are not always easy to recognize. In fact, wet brain behavior can look a lot like various other health problems. One thing to know about this condition is that it appears suddenly. This is different from many other health problems derived from the abuse of alcohol. Most of the time, the major health symptoms of alcohol use disorder may take years to develop. However, symptoms of wet brain usually come on very quickly and have two distinct stages.
Wernicke’s Encephalopathy vs. Korsakoff’s Syndrome
There has been much debate over the differences between Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s Syndrome. These two terms can be described as different stages of wet brain syndrome; one who struggles with alcohol dependence usually develops Wernicke’s encephalopathy before Korsakoff’s Syndrome. The hyphenated term Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome has also been referred to as alcoholic dementia, which is a combination of symptoms of both disorders.
Stage 1 – Wernicke’s Encephalopathy
Wernicke’s Encephalopathy is the first stage of wet brain from alcoholism. It includes a long list of startling symptoms, including the following:
• Mental confusion and/or inactivity, possibly leading to death
• Abnormal eye movements
• Double vision
• Eyelid drooping
• Loss of voluntary control over muscle movement and coordination
• Drooping eyelids
• Sudden loss of mental ability
• Leg tremors
• Alcohol withdrawal
• Coma and death
Stage 2 – Korsakoff’s Psychosis
Korsakoff’s Syndrome affects the memory most noticeably in one’s inability to recall recent events. For example, an individual may be perfectly capable of holding a coherent conversation but moments later may forget that the conversation took place. Learning new information would be problematic, and there may be some long-term memory gaps. To compensate for memory gaps and losses, individuals with Korsakoff’s Syndrome may fabricate stories to explain details they can’t remember. They may not even realize that they are making up stories due to mental confabulation.
The second stage of wet brain from alcoholism centers around memories. The symptoms are as follows:
– Loss of memory
– Sudden inability to form new memories
– Making up false memories
– Seeing and hearing things that aren’t there
A typical example of this stage is a person having a conversation and then immediately forgetting they had it. They may also form fake memories where they describe events that didn’t happen. Between 80 and 90% of people with alcoholism who develop stage one of wet brain syndrome will also develop stage two.
Risk Factors for Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome
Severe alcoholism is most commonly known to cause wet brain syndrome, but other factors also include poor absorption of food, an aftermath of bariatric surgery, prolonged intravenous therapy, malnutrition, and beriberi. Malnutrition and alcoholism go hand in hand since many who struggle with alcoholism bypass real food to get their next fix. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol dependence damages the stomach and intestinal linings, impairing normal absorption of nutrients through the bloodstream. “Even if nutrients are digested and absorbed, alcohol and prevent them from being fully utilized by altering their transport, storage and excretion” (NIAAA, 1993)
Why Does Wet Brain Happen To Alcoholics?
Wet brain is actually quite rare, and it only happens to between one and two percent of the United States population. People with alcohol addiction are more likely to suffer from it due to poor nutrition, other health problems from alcohol abuse, and increased vomiting. Ultimately, this condition is due to a lack of nutrients. The other problem that people with alcohol addiction suffer from is poor nutrient absorption. Alcohol damages and inflames the lining of the stomach, esophagus and intestines, which prevents nutrients from being fully absorbed. Alcoholics may also eat less than healthy people due to wanting to consume more alcohol.
How To Know If You Have Wet Brain From Alcohol Abuse
If you’re a heavy drinker of alcohol, you might be wondering if you have wet brain. The progression to this condition starts with symptoms like frequent vomiting, anemia or other nutritional deficiencies, poor diet, sudden and rapid weight loss, or a reduced BMI. This puts you at a definite risk for wet brain. Early symptoms include the following:
• Frequent feelings of nausea
• Memory loss
• Lack of appetite
• Feeling giddy for no reason
• Hard time focusing
If you drink alcohol and have most or all of these symptoms as well as weight loss, you should see a doctor for a more accurate diagnosis.
Can You Reverse Wet Brain From Alcohol Use Disorder?
The first stage of wet brain from alcohol use disorder is very reversible. The person must be treated right away with injections of vitamin B1. However, if it’s not treated, then it will eventually move to stage two. That stage of wet brain is only somewhat reversible. If you quit alcohol and supplement with vitamin B1, the symptoms will likely improve, but they will not fully go away.
Effective Nutritional Counseling for Wet Brain Syndrome
A licensed nutritional counselor helps individuals restore healthy dietary habits while they abstain from alcohol consumption. Nutritional counseling, an evidence-based practice, entails a counselor’s analysis of clients’ food choices, lifestyle factors, and food preparation skills. While in recovery, clients are educated on nutritional knowledge and the impact of diet on health. Educational intervention and nutritional counseling have demonstrated overall better outcomes in addiction treatment, and it is part of New Method Wellness’s integrated dual diagnosis addiction treatment programs.
Alcohol Detox and Addiction Treatment
Even if a person with alcoholism is diagnosed with wet brain, they still might not be able to quit alcohol by themselves. Alcohol addiction and withdrawal are very powerful and hard to deal with by oneself. The only possible way to reverse many of the damaging effects of alcohol abuse like wet brain is to quit alcohol. In order to do this, many people will have to go through a detox period. Alcohol detox, as offered by New Method Wellness, provides medical supervision to mitigate any uncomfortable or dangerous symptoms. It also ensures that you don’t have any access to alcohol during your detox period.
After detox, you can pursue treatment with New Method Wellness. Through various forms of therapy and counseling, you can find the underlying reasons for your alcoholism and develop healthier coping strategies.
It’s never too late to start on a sober path for the rest of your life. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, contact New Method Wellness today to find out more about your treatment options.
To learn more about Addiction Treatment Programs, call (866) 951-1824!