A deficiency of vitamin B1 frequently occurs among individuals with poor nutrition. Thiamine deficiency is also associated with long-term heavy drinking.
If wet brain syndrome is diagnosed early, some of the symptoms are reversible. When wet brain syndrome is untreated, though, it can trigger ongoing problems, including:
- Permanent state of confusion
- Impaired muscle coordination
- Disturbing hallucinations
What is wet brain from alcohol addiction, then?
What is Wet Brain?
Wet brain is formally termed Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome but is also known as:
- Wet brain syndrome
- Alcoholic wet brain
- Wet brain alcoholic
This neurological disorder consists of two discrete conditions that can occur simultaneously. Those conditions are known as:
- Wernicke’s syndrome: Sometimes called Wernicke’s encephalopathy, this is the acute phase of the syndrome.
- Korsakoff psychosis: If untreated, Wernicke’s syndrome can develop into Korsakoff syndrome, also known as Korsakoff psychosis, a chronic and irreversible condition.
If the above disorders co-occur, this is known informally as wet brain and clinically as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Most cases of WKS in the United States are associated with long-term and chronic alcohol consumption. Less commonly, this syndrome occurs in those with malnutrition, eating disorders, or other conditions that lead to thiamine deficiency.
Thiamine is a key nutrient required by all bodily tissues, especially those in the cardiovascular system and nervous systems.
When WKS is untreated, lesions can form in the brain, triggering permanent and possibly lethal brain damage. The early detection of this syndrome is central to reducing the likelihood of long-lasting or permanent damage.
Among the general U.S. population, wet brain syndrome impacts between 1% and 2% of adults. Wet brain prevalence rates are much higher among those who drink alcohol chronically at somewhere between 12% and 14%.
The risk of developing this syndrome is increased among those who have undergone GI surgery or bariatric surgery.
Wernicke’s encephalopathy – the first disorder of WKS – is a temporary but severe condition characterized by:
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Vision changes
- Abnormal eye movements
Korsakoff psychosis or Korsakoff syndrome, on the other hand, is a persistent and chronic condition. Often following Wernicke’s syndrome, Korsakoff psychosis can be severely disruptive to daily functioning. Both cognition and learning are significantly impaired.
What are the Symptoms of Wet Brain?
The most common symptoms that first present among individuals experiencing this syndrome are as follows:
- Eye abnormalities
- Loss of control of movement (ataxia)
- Disorientation and confusion
Wet brain syndrome can trigger various problems related to your eyes.
Some of these issues like ptosis (drooping upper eyelids) are easy to notice, while other vision problems require an examination to diagnose. The most common vision-related effects related to wet brain syndrome are as follows:
- Rapid and involuntary eye movements
- Double vision
- Difficulty moving eyes up and down or from side to side
In rare cases, this syndrome can lead to some of the eye muscles become paralysed.
Loss of control of movement (ataxia)
Most people suffering from Wernicke’s Korsakoff syndrome will find their balance is affected and they have difficulty controlling their movements. This is clinically termed ataxia.
As wet brain syndrome develops, standing or walking unaided can become problematic. Some people with chronic WKS are unable to walk as a result of the condition.
Disorientation and confusion
Disorientation and confusion are central to wet brain syndrome.
An initial state of confusion can develop over several days, sometimes giving way to other changes in an emotional state.
As the syndrome persists, it is common to experience:
- Extreme fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
Delirium can manifest in severe cases of WKS.
Final Stages of Wet Brain
This final stage of WKS is also known as:
- Alcohol amnestic disorder
- Alcoholic dementia
Studies show that up to 90% of people who abuse alcohol and develop Wernicke’s encephalopathy will subsequently develop Korsakoff syndrome. Also known as Korsakoff psychosis, this is a form of neuropsychiatric dementia viewed as the result of not treating Wernicke’s encephalopathy promptly.
These are the most commonly reported symptoms of the final stage of wet brain syndrome:
- Personality changes
- Creating fictional memories
- Chronic short-term memory loss
- Becoming increasingly talkative
- Rapid heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Acute malnutrition
If the symptoms of WKS are misdiagnosed or overlooked, this can be dangerous and potentially fatal.
Alcoholism Treatment at The District Recovery
Here at The District Recovery Community, we specialize in gender-specific addiction treatment.
We offer alcohol use disorder treatment programs at the following levels of intensity:
- OP – a regular outpatient program providing 2 to 3 hours of therapy sessions per week.
- IOP – intensive outpatient program providing up to 15 hours of therapy sessions per week.
- PHP – partial hospitalization program providing up to 35 hours of therapy sessions per week.
- Virtual IOP – remote therapy sessions for those unable to access our treatment facility.
- Dual diagnosis treatment program – integrated treatment for those with alcoholism and co-occurring mental health disorders.
All of our treatment programs draw from the following evidence-based interventions:
- Group counseling
- Individual counseling
- Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)
- MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
- Family therapy
- Holistic therapies
Once you complete your course of treatment for alcohol use disorder, you can step down to less intensive programming or you can transition straight back into sober living. Either way, your treatment team will equip you with a relapse prevention plan and the appropriate level of aftercare. When you leave TDRC, you will have a firm foundation for ongoing recovery.
To get started today, reach out to admissions right now at 844.287.8506