It’s estimated that 29.5 million people over the age of 12 have an alcohol use disorder in the United States alone. If you suffer significant problems as a result of your alcohol use and yet continue to drink, you qualify as having an alcohol use disorder. Liver disease, cancer, increases in violence and injuries, and problems with jobs and relationships are just some of the well-known potential dangers of alcohol use disorder. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome—also known as wet brain—is a lesser-known danger for heavy drinkers but one that can lead to death.
Here are four common signs of wet brain and what you can do to avoid it.
What is Wet Brain?
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a combination of Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis that causes a form of dementia in those who are chronic heavy drinkers. Poor diet, which is often present alongside heavy drinking along with the drinking itself, leads to dangerously low levels of thiamine. Some individuals may be more prone to low thiamine levels due to genetics and may, therefore, be at a higher risk of this syndrome.
The syndrome progresses from encephalopathy (brain swelling) to psychosis in a matter of days or weeks. While some can live up to eight years with wet brain, others may experience a shorter life expectancy due to other health conditions.
Can Wet Brain Be Avoided?
Wet brain can absolutely be avoided by limiting or discontinuing alcohol use. Those who are unable to control their use of alcohol have a disorder and should seek help. Taking supplements with high levels of thiamine can also help those who drink alcohol avoid the syndrome.
Are There Any Treatments for Wet Brain?
A doctor can diagnose Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome through an examination of the history, evaluation of symptoms, and an MRI scan. If there is a wet brain diagnosis, the treatment is usually discontinuing alcohol use and taking thiamine supplements. While some symptoms may be able to be reversed, those with the syndrome will likely have lingering problems.
4 Common Signs of Wet Brain
Almost 80% of those with this syndrome remain undiagnosed, leading to an increased risk of death. That’s why it’s important to spot the signs in yourself or someone you love so you can seek help. The four common signs of wet brain are:
1. Severe Memory Impairment
Those with this syndrome will likely have trouble remembering things and may develop the inability to form new memories.
2. Lack of Energy
Apathy, lack of energy, and decreased motivation are also signs of wet brain.
Being unnaturally cold and unable to warm up—or hypothermia—is a common sign of this syndrome.
4. Trouble with Everyday Tasks
An inability to organize, plan, make decisions, or complete normal everyday tasks are all signs of wet brain.
When to Seek Help for Wet Brain
The best time to seek help for this syndrome is before it starts. If you believe you have an alcohol use disorder, it’s important to seek treatment so you can avoid this and other negative health consequences.