The Role of Thiamine Deficiency in Alcoholic Brain Disease

If someone will see improvement, it will typically happen within the first two years of diagnosis or treatment. Approximately 10 or 20 percent of people with Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome will not survive if the issue goes untreated. Excessive chronic alcohol use can affect how the body absorbs vitamin B1, leading to deficiency. When the brain does not have enough thiamine, it struggles to convert sugar into the energy it needs for normal, healthy function. The condition damages parts of the brain responsible for movement and coordination. The onset of Wernicke encephalopathy is considered a medical emergency, and thus thiamine administration should be initiated immediately when the disease is suspected.

  • It is also one that Coloradans, in particular, should be concerned about.
  • Unfortunately, many individuals who suffer from alcohol abuse and alcoholism don’t consume a well-balanced diet that contains enough thiamine.
  • In general, the human body needsabout 0.33 mg of thiaminefor every 1,000 calories it needs to consume.
  • When Wet brain symptoms are detected, prompt treatment can prevent or delay the progression of the disease.
  • 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.

If this process cannot be completed or enough energy can’t be created, the body is unable to properly function and symptoms will start to develop. Unfortunately, once Wet Brain advances to the second stage, it is permanent. Even though Wet Brain is permanent once it enters the second stage, it is important that you stop drinking. Without proper addiction treatment, the disorder will continue to progress causing a worsening of the cognitive, psychological and physical symptoms you experience. In some cases, if proper addiction treatment is not sought and you continue to drink, Wet Brain can be fatal.

Wet Brain Symptoms

For example, patients with WE may be too confused to find their way out of a room or may not even be able to walk. Many WE patients, however, do not exhibit all three of these signs and symptoms, and clinicians working with alcoholics must be aware that WE may be present even if the patient presents with only one or two of them. In fact, neuropathological studies after death indicate that many cases of thiamine deficiency–related encephalopathy may not be diagnosed in life because not all Wet Brain from Alcoholism the “classic” signs and symptoms are present or recognized. 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.

If wet brain is diagnosed and treated early, the damage to the brain can potentially be repaired. However, if it is left untreated, the brain damage could be permanent.

Helping a Loved One with Wet Brain

The official medical term for wet brain syndrome is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. However, many individuals, both in the medical field and out of it, refer to it as Wet Brain.

  • Alcoholism interferes with the consumption, absorption, and activation of thiamine in your system.
  • For those who have Korsakoff syndrome,25% can recover from wet brainwith supplemental treatment.
  • This is mostly because Wernicke encephalopathy is simply too difficult to diagnose — no thanks to its aforementioned symptoms being mistaken for mere intoxication.
  • For example, in France, a country that is well known for its consumption and production of wine, prevalence was only 0.4% in 1994, while Australia had a prevalence of 2.8%.
  • Thiamine deficiency is particularly important because it can exacerbate many of the other processes by which alcohol induces brain injury, as described in other articles in this issue of Alcohol Research & Health.
  • People who regularly abuse alcohol for long periods of time are more likely than others to get wet brain, although it can also be caused by intense periods of vomiting or poor nutrition.

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Wernicke’s encephalopathy

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While thiamine deficiency can happen to people with poor diets, it is more common in those who drink heavily over the course of many years. Alcohol not only prevents the body from getting enough thiamine from a person’s diet, but alcohol use also depletes the body’s thiamine stores, which are held in the liver.

Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome Treatment and Diagnosis Criteria

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a type of dementia or cognitive impairment caused by a deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B1. It is important that you are able to identify the things that trigger you or your loved one to use alcohol. Once these triggers are identified, you may have to cut certain events, people, and situations out of your life in order to make your physical health and sobriety a bigger priority. The sooner you can recognize symptoms and receive appropriate treatment, the sooner you can stop the progression of the syndrome and greatly lower your chances of experiencing irreversible side effects. The key to treating wet brain is to receive treatment as soon as possible.

What causes death in Wernicke’s encephalopathy?

Mortality may be secondary to infections and hepatic failure, but some deaths are directly attributable to irreversible defects of severe and prolonged thiamine deficiency (eg, coma). The mortality rate is up to 10-15% in severe cases.

With that said, they may still sustain some minor permanent damages to the brain. While there are other factors for wet brain syndrome, one of the most significant causes is uncontrolled alcohol use. It’s important to note that thiamine will not improve intellect or memory in wet brain patients. The long-term effects of this disease can range from difficulty with personal interactions and injuries caused by loss of coordination to coma or even death. Blood testing can provide key insights into a person’s thiamine levels and other general nutrition. Decreased red blood cell activity could be an indicator of thiamine deficiency.

With the proper treatment and management, it’s possible to reverse the damage the condition has caused to your brain. Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals.

  • People who are struggling to end substance use and dependence and cope with the symptoms of mental health disorders in their lives can get the help they need through a dual diagnosis program.
  • Thiamine deficiency leads to significant reductions in the activities of these enzymes, and to deleterious effects on the viability of brain cells.
  • Alcoholics, in particular, should familiarize themselves with this disease.
  • When the brain does not have enough thiamine, it struggles to convert sugar into the energy it needs for normal, healthy function.

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