Wet Brain Syndrome

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Wet Brain

Alcohol Abuse Causes Wet Brain

Late stage alcoholism often features several devastating health effects, including brain damage. Wet brain syndrome, or Wenricke-Korakoff, is a serious brain disorder associated with long-term alcohol abuse. About 12%-14% of alcoholics develop wet brain. Left untreated, wet brain syndrome evolves toward severe complications and possibly death.

What is Wet Brain?

Chronic heavy drinking can result in a thiamine deficiency. This occurs when inflammation in the gut becomes so severe it can no longer absorb vitamin B-1, or thiamine. Wet brain can be caused by malnutrition, eating disorders, or late stage alcoholism. In fact, the thiamine deficiency can be worsened by the alcoholic’s poor diet in the later stages of alcoholism.

Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome is the medical term for wet brain. This refers to a two-stage disorder of the brain: Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis. The damage to the brain centers on the optic (eye) region and involves encephalopathy, or brain lesions. The lesions lead to paralysis of the nerves in the optic region, mental confusion and psychosis.

Symptoms of Wet Brain

The first stage of wet brain is Wernicke. Wenicke features severe mental confusion, loss of coordination, and nerve paralysis around the eyes causing double vision. If the individual receives treatment and stops drinking, these symptoms are largely reversible. 

However, if wet brain is allowed to progress it will evolve into Korsakoff’s, which is fatal in 20% of those afflicted. Korsakoff’s is a chronic condition that features memory impairment, loss of muscle control, learning problems, and possibly hallucinations. The effects of Korakoff’s are profound, as the condition causes impairment in daily functioning.

The symptoms of wet brain may include:

  • Mental confusion.
  • Balance problems.
  • Abnormal eye movements.
  • Vision problems.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Leg tremors.
  • Irritability
  • Drooping eyelid.
  • Memory loss.
  • Drowsiness
  • Being easily frustrated.
  • Changes in behavior.
  • Coma
  • Death

Treatment for Wet Brain

Thiamine is needed to help brain cells produce energy from sugar. Therefore, when someone suffers from wet brain there are multiple ways it impacts functioning. To correct these, the thiamine deficiency must be addressed as early as possible.

The key to curing wet brain is to receive an early diagnosis so the thiamine deficiency can be treated. An emerging case of wet brain syndrome may be treated via oral supplements. However, a serious case of wet brain syndrome may require months of IV vitamin B-1 infusions.

 If wet brain syndrome was caused by alcohol use disorder, it is critical that the person quit drinking. In most cases, this will require enrollment in a comprehensive inpatient addiction treatment program, followed by outpatient treatment and aftercare.

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In the event the person has developed the more serious Korsakoff’s, there is a heightened risk that the symptoms become permanent. These include such symptoms as amnesia, hallucinations, and behavior changes, and necessitates that the person receive full-time care.

Besides Wet Brain, How Else Does Alcoholism Damage the Brain?

Alcohol can have very damaging effects on the brain. It can cause disruption in both brain functions and structure. Wet brain is but one type of brain damage caused by alcoholism. Other forms of adverse effects on both white and gray brain matter caused by chronic alcohol abuse include:

  • Stroke, which can cause dementia.
  • Decreased volume.
  • Causes reduced neuroplasticity.
  • Psychomotor impairment.
  • Diminished reflex response.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Reduced respiration and heart rates.
  • Disrupts neurotransmitter levels.

Recognizing Alcohol Use Disorder

Because alcohol is so toxic to the brain, it is important to be aware of the signs of alcoholism. If you recognize the signs and symptoms of alcohol use disorder, it is time to obtain treatment:

  • Drinking more alcohol over a longer period than intended.
  • Trying to cut back or stop drinking but can’t.
  • Drinking more alcohol to achieve the desired effects.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining alcohol, drinking, and recovering from its effects.
  • Having alcohol cravings.
  • Drinking causes you to neglect family obligations or causes problems at work. 
  • Continuing to drink despite these problems.
  • Losing interest in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed.
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors due to drinking.
  • Keep drinking even though it causes mental health or medical problems. 
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the alcohol wear off.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Whether you have symptoms of wet brain or not, if you have the signs of alcoholism you will need to complete detox and rehabilitation. If you are diagnosed with Werneke’s, the first stage of wet brain, sobriety is not an option. A treatment program can launch your journey to restoring brain health.

Treatment for alcohol use disorder includes:

  • Medical detox. The detox team closely monitors the alcohol withdrawal symptoms and provides medications to help minimize discomfort during the detox process.
  • Psychotherapy. You will engage in both individual and group therapy sessions that use evidence-based treatment methods.  
  • Education. You will create a relapse prevention plan by listing known triggers, and then the actions to take when they arise.
  • Holistic treatment. Holistic methods like yoga, massage, mindfulness, acupuncture, art therapy, and equine therapy enhance the treatment process.

How the Brain Heals in Recovery

When someone receives early treatment for both alcoholism and wet brain syndrome the damage to the brain can be reversed. With sobriety, the brain has the capacity to recover and repair the damaged brain structures and restore brain volume. By the five-year mark of recovery, much of the cognitive function has been restored as well.

The following actions can aid in restoring brain health:

  • Nutrition. Brain health improves with a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish, nuts, berries, avocados, kale, and broccoli.
  • Exercise. Getting regular exercise helps to increase the blood supply that delivers oxygen to the brain.
  • Adequate sleep. For optimum brain health, aim for seven or more hours of sleep per night.

The key to avoiding wet brain syndrome is to get treatment for alcoholism sooner rather than later. Reach out for help today.

Capo by the Sea Leading Treatment Provider for Wet Brain Syndrome

Capo by the Sea offers the full spectrum of recovery services for individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder. To learn more about our private detox and rehab, call our Admissions Team at (888) 529-2114