ALCOHOL-RELATED BRAIN DAMAGE AND DEMENTIA
Dementia and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is caused by regularly drinking too much over several years.
When consumed regularly and at excessive levels alcohol prevents neurons from regenerating.
Symptoms of ARBD include:
Poor planning and organisational skills
Problems with decision-making, judgement and risk assessment
Impulsivity and difficulty controlling emotions
Problems with attention and slower reasoning
Lack of sensitivity to others feelings
Socially inappropriate behaviour
Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period can reduce the volume of the brain’s white matter. White matter helps transmit signals to and from different regions of the brain so any reduction in matter impacts the way it functions.
As a result, long term alcohol misuse can lead to Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
Vitamin B deficiencies are common in alcohol users with poor diet and nutrition. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a type of brain disorder caused by a lack of vitamin B-1, or thiamine.
It consists of two separate conditions that can occur at the same time, Wernicke’s Disease (WD) and Korsakoff Syndrome.
Symptoms of Wernicke’s Disease include:
Decreased consciousness level including unconsciousness
Problems with vision
Korsakoff’s Syndrome is characterised by:
Difficulty in learning new information
Exaggerated story telling
Emotional disturbances; apprehension, anxiety, excitability
Chronic alcohol misuse is the leading cause of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and it can be devastating. This is largely impacted by the poor diet and nutrition that typically coincides with dependent drinking. Left untreated, mortality rates are high, but by recognising the symptoms early and getting advice individuals can have a good chance of improving. It is important that people get treatment as early as possible when showing signs of Wernicke-Korsakoff. 25% will not recover.