Have you ever heard of the term “wet brain?” While it’s an interesting and informal expression, it describes a very serious illness related to alcohol abuse that can potentially decrease someone’s life expectancy. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, side effects, and causes of wet brain syndrome as well as wet brain life expectancy.
What Is Wet Brain Syndrome?Wet brain syndrome, technically called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, is a combination of two different conditions with varying symptoms that usually occur together. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is the first stage of this illness, which has less severe symptoms. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of people with Wernicke’s encephalopathy form Korsakoff psychosis, which is more of a serious brain complication. This issue can be a long-term complication that’s often associated with alcohol abuse. This syndrome is also referred to as “alcohol-related dementia” because the mixture of the two disorders causes dementia-like symptoms. If wet brain is left untreated, wet brain life expectancy decreases as it is a very harmful and dangerous condition.
Does Alcohol Abuse Play a Role in Thiamine Deficiency?Individuals who are the most likely to develop wet brain are those with long-term alcohol abuse. This is because Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is triggered by a thiamine deficiency (or a vitamin B1 deficiency), which can be caused by overconsumption of alcohol. A thiamine deficiency can also be caused by malnutrition, anorexia, AIDs, certain types of cancer, and specific surgeries. Therefore, even people who don’t have an alcohol addiction can develop this syndrome. Additionally, only a small fraction of the population is currently diagnosed with Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, with the most vulnerable group being men aged 30-70.
Can Alcohol Permanently Damage Your Brain and Your Body?Short-term alcohol use can impact the brain and cause difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slow reaction times, and impaired memory. However, long-term alcohol abuse can lead to brain deficits that persist after someone gets sober. Heavy drinking can have effects that range from simple slips in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care. How alcohol affects the brain depends on various factors like how much/how often someone drinks, the age at which they first began drinking, the person’s gender, their general health status, and more. Additionally, women are more vulnerable than men to many of the medical consequences of heavy alcohol use. For example, women who are alcoholics who develop cirrhosis, alcohol–induced damage of the heart muscle (i.e., cardiomyopathy), and nerve damage after fewer years of heavy drinking than do alcoholic men. However, studies comparing men’s and women’s sensitivity to brain damage caused by alcohol haven’t been as conclusive.
Wet Brain SymptomsWernicke syndrome symptoms typically start with signs of brain damage, followed by symptoms of psychosis. The symptoms of wet brain, which tend to get more severe over time, are similar to those of dementia. Wernicke syndrome symptoms may include:
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Leg tremors
- Vision changes
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Appearing drunk
- Loss of mental activity
- Loss of memories and the inability to remember
- Making up stories to replace memories
- Experiencing hallucinations