What is “Wet Brain” ?
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), is commonly referred to as “wet brain”. It is a form of brain damage that results from repeated and severe exposure to alcohol. It is progressive and occurs in two phases.
The first phase which is known as Wernicke’s encephalopathy, is a temporary condition that is expressed as confusion, loss of muscular coordination, abnormal eye movements and changes in vision.
The second phase is characterised by psychosis, an inability to think and rationalise as well as a lack of personal care and an inability to successfully complete daily tasks. This phase is persistent and chronic.
Common symptoms of wet brain include:
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Low body tempreture
- Abnormal eye movements
- Weakness and muscle atrophy
- Vision changes, such as double vision
- Memory loss and mental confusion
- Changes in behaviour
- Dishonesty, lies, struggling to keep stories straight, as well as fabricating events
Wet brain is a serious condition of the brain, and can lead to a loss of consciousness, coma, or even death. Though the people afflicted with this illness can die as a direct result of it, malnutrition, accidents and an inability to recognise danger or care for themselves as a result of the condition may also prove fatal.
It is important not to confuse the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal with wet brain. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
Wet brain is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. This is a common complication that can be caused by nutritional poverty, or much more commonly- prolonged heavy drinking. Thiamine deficiency can lead to brain damage, heart damage as well as nerve damage. Though alcohol consumption isn’t inherently destructive, the effects of persistent long-term abuse can have serious health complications. This can be the cause of daily drinking or binge drinking, it is not one or the other that is particularly dangerous but rather overall volume.
It has been theorised that some people may have a genetic pre-disposition to developing wet brain. If a family member has developed the condition it may be a good idea to cut alcohol consumption or stop it completely. There is also substantial evidence that suggests that alcoholism may also be genetic, those with an alcoholic family member may be more predisposed to problem drinking.
Whether or not wet brain can be effectively treated is entirely dependent on how far the disease has progressed. When treated promptly, the individual can see improvements in cognition as well as muscle functioning and orientation. Treatment is done through supplementing thiamine intravenously and/or orally. The most imperative course of action is that alcohol consumption stops.
In order to diagnose wet brain a medical professional should be consulted. An ECG, CT scan or an MRI may be needed to confirm a diagnosis, as well as to determine the best course of medical treatment going forwards. It is however imperative to seek treatment for alcoholism – the underlying cause. Should a person with wet brain continue to drink, the degradation of the structures within the brain will persist. With the mental decline that occurs with wet brain, it is important to remember that the ill person may not be in the best position to determine their own course of treatment. Contact us, for a free assessment to see what the best course of action may be in assisting your loved one. The road to recovery is not always an easy one but getting yourself or your loved one the best care from the team at Crossroads Recovery Centre, provides you with a map to sober, healthy living. No matter how bad things seem, there is hope and it is a phone call away. If you or anyone close to you needs help with an addiction to sex, gambling, substances, alcohol or food, please contact us.
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