Alcohol can damage organs and systems throughout your body, including your brain. After years of heavy drinking, you may experience memory loss and difficulty concentrating. Daily tasks that require multiple steps, such as cooking a meal or balancing your household budget, can become difficult or impossible. If you routinely drink to excess, here’s what you should know about alcoholic dementia.
How Does Alcohol Change Your Brain?
Specifically, alcohol affects the brain’s frontal lobes, which govern voluntary movements and expressive language. They also control high-level executive functions, including the ability to plan, organize and set goals.
Many people with alcoholic dementia cannot retain new information, such as the details of a conversation. They may be unable to remember knowledge and events, like where they used to work or places they have visited on vacation.
A person with alcohol-related dementia might also struggle with their balance and coordination, even when they are sober. That’s because alcohol damages the brain region that regulates these things. Additionally, long-term drinking can cause mood problems such as apathy, depression or irritability, which can make it even harder to stop drinking or reach out for help.
What Is Wet Brain?
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, nicknamed “wet brain,” is a severe vitamin B1 deficiency common among people who have developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. It affects the thalamus and hypothalamus, which play essential roles in regulating your body’s equilibrium. The condition consists of two distinct, overlapping disorders – Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome.
Confusion and disorientation are the primary calling cards of Wernicke encephalopathy. In this phase of wet brain, people may become lethargic, drowsy or indifferent, or have trouble standing and walking without help. Delirium may also occur, especially when people try to quit drinking without medical support. Ocular issues and vision changes linked to Wernicke syndrome include double vision, involuntary eye movements, eyelid drooping or muscle paralysis.
A high percentage of people with Wernicke encephalopathy go on to develop Korsakoff syndrome, which includes amnesia, hallucinations, behavioral changes and bewildering memory gaps. Without treatment, wet brain will gradually worsen, leading to permanent effects such as memory loss and a shorter lifespan.
Can You Recover From Alcoholic Dementia?
Unlike other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, some effects of alcoholic brain damage are reversible with the appropriate treatment and support. For example, you can start feeling better if you quit drinking and focus on eating a nutritionally balanced diet. However, if you continue your unhealthy habits, your symptoms will likely get worse, and you can expect other areas of your well-being to decline as well.
Professional help is the safest and most effective way to recover from prolonged, excessive alcohol abuse. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, we offer customized addiction treatment in a hospital setting. While our ASAM-accredited facility has cutting-edge medical equipment and a highly trained staff, we have also created a welcoming, homelike setting for healing. To learn more about what we offer and how to begin your recovery, contact us today.