wet brain syndrome

Wet brain syndrome, also known as wet brain disease and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, is a form of brain damage associated with excessive, long-term alcohol consumption. Wet brain syndrome symptoms develop as a result of a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1). 

What is wet brain syndrome?

When searching for a wet brain syndrome definition, you’ll come across a series of explanations and summaries that describe brain damage linked to alcohol intake. Wet brain syndrome causes individuals to experience a host of symptoms, which affect your memory, your ability to focus and control movements and your mood. These symptoms appear as a result of thiamine deficiency. Alcohol disrupts the function of enzymes used to bring thiamine into an active state and it also impairs the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B1. 

Wet brain syndrome is often referred to as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. These two conditions, which are linked, are caused by a lack of thiamine. Wernicke’s encephalopathy precedes Korsakoff’s psychosis, and it results from damage to the lower parts of the brain caused by alcoholism. Around 80% of people who survive Wernicke’s encephalopathy will develop symptoms of Korsakoff’s psychosis, according to Merck Manuals. This wet brain syndrome video contains more information about the causes, symptoms and treatment options. 


Wet brain syndrome symptoms

The symptoms of wet brain syndrome vary according to whether the individual experiences Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Korsakoff’s psychosis. 

Symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Ataxia (uncontrolled muscle movements)

Individuals who develop Korsakoff’s psychosis may experience personality changes and mood swings, memory loss and confabulation (making up stories to plug gaps caused by loss of memory). 

Other symptoms of wet brain syndrome may include:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

Wet brain syndrome life expectancy and treatment options

Alcohol-related brain damage can have a debilitating impact on quality of life. Wet brain syndrome life expectancy varies according to the individual, the symptoms they present with and the extent of damage to the brain. It is possible to reduce the severity of wet brain syndrome symptoms and improve wet brain syndrome prognosis by increasing thiamine levels and providing support to help individuals to stop drinking.

Additional therapies, for example, medication, can also be used to address specific symptoms, such as muscle twitches. Statistics published in Merck Manuals suggest a mortality rate of 10%-20% for those with Wernicke’s encephalopathy. If left untreated, the symptoms of wet brain syndrome worsen, and it is possible for those affected to fall into a coma. Early detection of wet brain syndrome symptoms can improve the prognosis significantly. 

Glass of beer

What is wet brain syndrome in alcoholics? A summary

Wet brain syndrome is a condition that stems from excessive drinking. It causes damage to the brain linked to thiamine deficiency, resulting in symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, loss of concentration and personality changes.

If diagnosed early, it is possible to utilise treatments and therapies, including those designed to increase thiamine levels and help individuals to give up drinking, to reduce the severity of symptoms and protect the brain from further damage.

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