How Does Wet Brain Work?

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Last Updated on May 12, 2021 by Ben Lesser

Wet brain is the informal name for Wernicke Korsakoff psychosis` syndrome, which is a type of brain disease caused by undue alcohol consumption. This syndrome (wet brain) is hazardous when caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

The Link Between Alcohol Abuse and The Wernicke Korsakoff (wet Brain)

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported in an article published in 2013 that about 86.8 percent of adults in America have consumed alcohol at some point in their life. Consuming alcohol in moderate amounts is not necessarily bad, and alcohol is even reported to have certain health benefits. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines responsible drinking as drinking only once daily for women and twice a day for men, which is commonly considered the safe zone. Drinking more than these levels may result in binge drinking, and if this goes on for an extensive period of time, it may lead to substance abuse, alcohol addiction or wet brain.

In 2013, The NIAAA confirmed that up to 16.6 million adults in America between the ages of 18 and 40 and 697,000 adolescents aged between 12 and 17 have struggled with AUD.

Extensive abuse of alcohol, or alcoholism, carries a multitude of harmful health implications and side effects, such as developing a wet brain. Reports from the NIAAA show that up to 80 per cent of alcoholics may have thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiencies. Thiamine is a crucial vitamin responsible for helping the body metabolize and use sugars to create energy successfully. In wet braincases, thiamine levels are compromised through poor eating habits. The links between chronic alcoholism and these conditions are heightened because alcoholics tend to make poor dietary and lifestyle choices, resulting in brain damage. In addition, the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol abuse include nausea and vomiting, which further drains fundamental vitamins and minerals from the body.

Thiamine deficiency is strongly linked to the brain syndrome known as Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome or “wet brain.” It is mostly developed as a result of alcohol abuse. It is hard to know how many people may have Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome because the symptoms are similar to the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal or intoxication at times. Besides, many chronic alcoholics may be destitute or have a reduced social circle or support mechanism because of their alcoholism, which results in fewer official diagnoses of wet brain.

This brain disorder suddenly comes on and is often referred to as “alcohol-related dementia,” as brain damage can result in challenges with cognition and memory functions. These effects may be permanent and unchangeable. Oxford University Press reckoned that between 10 to 24 per cent of brain damage and dementia occurrences might be related to alcoholism. The Alzheimer’s Society states that “wet brain” may afflict about two per cent of the general population.

The Symptoms of Wet Brain

The conditions that constitute WKS are two distinct but often associated illnesses: Wernicke encephalopathic, together it’s called the Wernicke psychotic disorder, or WKS, who is considered to be a primary psychiatric entity.

Wernicke Encephalopathy

In reality, Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff psychosis are two different pathologies that constitute what is known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

The First Symptom of Wet Brain is Internal Bleeding in the Brain, Which May Result in the Following Symptoms:

  • Loss of balance
  • Twitchy eyes
  • Poor reflexes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Inability to coordinate 
  • Low body temperature
  • Weakness and muscle atrophy
  • Severe fatigue
  • Mental confusion

According to an article that appeared in the Swiss Medical Review, Wernicke encephalopathy (WEE) is characterized by mental confusion, abnormal eye movements, and ataxia. Still, only about 10 per cent of patients are afflicted with these symptoms, making the diagnosis extremely challenging. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a person with wet brain is at risk of eventually developing a Korsakoff syndrome.

Korsakoff Psychosis

This second wet brain phase can be destructive and permanent if not attended to early and adequately.

Symptoms of Korsakoff psychosis include:

  • Memory loss
  • Trouble learning new things or building-on to memories
  • Hallucinations
  • Quickly frustrated and forgetful
  • Difficulty with coordination, balance, and walking
  • Confabulation (inventing events to fill memory gaps)
  • Vision problems
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Changes in Personality

In addition to these symptoms, it is important to emphasize that persons who suffer from Wet brain due to prolonged alcohol consumption also experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, sweating, and other unpleasant effects caused by brain damage. The Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome may as well have genetic factors, making specific individuals more sensitive than others.

Loss of Memory

While the most prevalent cause of Wet brain may be constant alcohol abuse, anorexia, and many other dysfunctions that drain thiamine may also be the reason for its development. The active introduction of glucose to a brain that is deficient in thiamine may also cause a wet brain.

For example, suppose you are a chronic and heavy drinker who does not have sufficient nutritional understanding of healthy eating and drinks, leading to a poor nutritional diet. In that case, this puts you at increased risk of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Alcoholism Warning Signs

Your physician may initially assess you to check for indicators of alcoholism and wet brain. These tests may include investigating your levels of blood alcohol. They may perform a function test on your liver to screen you for liver cirrhosis in some instances. Cirrhosis is a frequent indicator of alcohol abuse. As a consequence of alcohol abuse, your liver enzyme level can rise.

Some of The Physical Examination Parameters Used to Diagnose Chronic Alcohol Dependence Are:

  • Pulse
  • eye coordination
  • The temperature of the body

The Indicators of Malnourishment

Your physician will carry out a screening on your blood to assess your nutrient levels in addition to some other nutritional examination to determine if you’re malnourished or not as wet brain shows same results.

Some Nutritional Investigations You Might Have to Take to Ensure You Are Not Undernourished Include:

  • Test for AlbuminThis test estimates the amount of a protein called albumin found in blood plasma. Significantly diminished amounts of albumin in the blood may indicate nutritional insufficiency and also liver or kidney issues.
  • Serum test for Thiamine. Using this test, you can estimate how much vitamin B1 is in your blood and what amount you need to take to meet your requirements. It’s not uncommon for deficiency reactions caused by nutrition to weaken the erythrocytes’ enzymes’ activity. Deficiencies in vitamin B-1 are likely to be evidenced in people with red blood cell activity weakened, as this illness indicates deficiencies in vitamin B-1.

Additional Investigations

You might also be required to take diagnostic radio imaging assessments, which would aid your doctor in discovering any organ damage that is unique to Wet brain. Some imaging assessments for WKS include:

  • Electrocardiograms or (ECG) is done prior to and after ingesting the vitamin, this will aid your doctor in finding alterations in brain patterns.
  • CT scan so as to screen in a brain lesions associated with Wet brain.
  • The MRI scan may also be needed to check for changes in brain structure related to Wet brain.

A neurological assessment may be used by your doctor to find the extent of mental disabilities.

How can WKS be Treated?

When Wet brain symptoms are detected, prompt treatment can prevent or delay the progression of the disease. In addition, prompt treatments can also reverse the temporary brain abnormalities.

Hospital admission may be necessary. There, your gastric system will be watched closely to ensure proper food absorption at the hospital.

  • The deficient nutrient is administered using the intravenous (IV) line around the arm.
  • Thiamine is also given orally
  • You will also be placed on a proper diet so that your nutrient levels vitamin can pick up

Treatment with intravenous injections of vitamin B-1 is usually given after diagnosing wet brain. Early intervention is crucial in reversing any of the brain damage.

Treating this nutrient deficiency may have a counterproductive reaction that is very commonplace with alcoholics. Besides sleep disorders and insomnia, you may also experience mood swings and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Hallucinations, confusion or agitation may be experienced, as well.

What are the Chances of Recovery for People with Wet Brain?

The outcome of wet brain is determined by the progression of the disease. Receiving treatment early before permanent damage occurs will greatly raise your chances. Wet Brain records high mortality rates when left unattended. The majority of deaths are caused by infections to the lungs, high blood toxicity, or permanent brain damage.

When treated quickly, wet brain patients will see improvements in:

  • Sight challenges
  • Body orientation
  • Cognition

Abstinence from alcohol promotes continuous improvements in cognitive function.

Steps to Prevent WKS?

One can prevent Wet brain by watching what you eat and taking vitamin supplements. 

Thiamine Is Plentiful in Foods Such As:

Treatment & Prognosis

Chronic alcohol abuse damages the cerebellum, responsible for coordination, movements, and even possibly some memory functions and learning functions. Depriving the brain over long periods of thiamine damages this region, and left untreated and unchecked, it can cause permanent brain damage.

Diagnosing Wet brain is not always easy. Individuals with the disorder often suffer from mental confusion, making it challenging to communicate with doctors. Your doctor might overrule the chances of a physical problem if you are confused.

The wet brain doesn’t have to proceed to Korsakoff psychosis. We can treat it early with thiamine supplements, diet health modifications, and minimal alcohol consumption and may reverse brain damage caused by pre-existing Alzheimer’s. Programs aimed at reducing binge drinking may include detoxification and therapy as part of a healthy lifestyle change. Preventing alcohol abuse and malnutrition by eating healthy foods and drinking responsibly is the most effective way to manage a wet brain. Several FRN treatment centers treat mental illnesses and brain damage caused by drug addiction.

How can you, or someone you love, get the treatment you need to leave alcohol abuse in the past? Contact an admissions coordinator today at 615-490-9376 for more information on how you can quit drinking and make substance abuse in order to get rid of wet brain.