Alcoholic dementia is a disorder that is caused due to excessive intake of alcohol. In this write-up, let us learn about the symptoms, prognosis and treatment of this brain disorder caused due to long-term drinking…
Alcoholic dementia, also known as alcohol-related dementia or alcohol-induced dementia, is a condition that leads to the deterioration of the brain, cognitive skills and intellectual functioning. This disorder is also associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and up to 10% of the people belonging to the age group of late 30s to 70s and who have a history of alcohol abuse are diagnosed with dementia.
The common types of alcohol related dementia include Wernicke’s encephalopathy, Korsakoff’s syndrome or the combined manifestation of both the disorders called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The brain, which is the most vital organ in the human body, declines to function properly and also results in memory loss. The prognosis for this brain related disorder, induced due to alcohol can be carried out successfully, if the signs and symptoms of dementia are known.
Symptoms of Alcohol-induced Dementia
The alcoholic dementia or Korsakoff syndrome (as it also known as) is caused due to the deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body. This can be due to improper or poor nutrition and inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach. The Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are separate but related phases of this disorder. Though many times Korsakoff syndrome is exhibited without an incidence of Wernicke’s syndrome, it is usually preceded by Wernicke’s encephalopathy.
The Wernicke’s syndrome usually affects the brain and the following symptoms are observed:
- Drowsiness and confusion
- Involuntary and jerky movements of the eyes
- Staggering gait, poor balancing and inability to walk
- Paralysis of the eye muscles
If a person is diagnosed with any of the above symptoms of Wernicke’s syndrome, then he should be immediately given high doses of thiamine that can be injected into the veins or muscles, which will help in reversal of the symptoms. If this condition is left untreated, then it may result in permanent brain damage or even prove fatal.
Untreated or late treatment of Wernicke’s encephalopathy can lead to Korsakoff’s syndrome, where brain damage is a gradual process, occurring in the central part of the brain and leading to short term memory loss or amnesia. Apart from memory loss, the symptoms of Korsakoff’s syndrome include
- Confabulation, where the person narrates things that have never taken place. It normally consists of creation of false perceptions, beliefs or memories and is caused due to psychological or neurological dysfunction.
- Psychosis, where the person experiences hallucinations or delusions
- Drooping eyelids
- Difficulty to acquire or learn new skills or information
- Double or blurred vision
- Repetitive or talkative behavior and apathy
Other Symptoms of Alcohol Dementia
- Change in personality
- Lack of motivation
- Poor concentration skills
- Problems with coordination
- Language disturbances
- Slow walking gait
Alcoholic Dementia Treatment
Dementia caused due to alcohol cannot be diagnosed unless an alcoholic abstains himself from alcohol for about five to six weeks. Psychological tests to check memory condition and other related abilities are carried out. The doctor may also check if the disorder leads to another form of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. If the person abstains from alcohol completely, then the progress of dementia can be halted. In order to treat this disorder the patient should be given a healthy diet that will help in restoring the lost nutrients, especially vitamin B1.
Korsakoff Syndrome Recovery
According to the prognosis, it takes two years to completely recover from this neurological condition. Studies have shown that only a quarter of the affected people completely recover while the other quarter do not recover at all. The remaining half of the patients partially get cured but require support to manage their lives.
Apart from this neurological condition, consumption of alcohol can also lead to many harmful disorders like liver cirrhosis, epileptic seizures, heart diseases and damage to the nervous system. Abilities to do things is affected as the nerve cells in the brain are damaged beyond repair. Excessive intake of alcohol over a long period of time has many ill effects. To prevent health problems related to alcohol related dementia and over-consumption of alcohol, you can always approach Alcoholics Anonymous or any other alcoholics rehabilitation centers to overcome alcohol addiction and lead a normal life again. Take care!