Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

wernicke-korsakoff syndrome

You may already know problem drinkers put themselves at higher risk of developing complications like alcoholic hepatitis, mental health disorders, certain types of cancer and malnutrition, but some of the other adverse health effects of alcohol aren’t as well-known. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a severe vitamin deficiency frequently seen in heavy drinkers, and if you are over-reliant on alcohol, it’s yet another excellent reason to quit drinking. 

What Is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?

WKS, also known as “wet brain,” is the name for two separate, coincidental conditions resulting from a lack of vitamin B1, or thiamine. Each of the two phases of this brain disorder brings alarming symptoms.

  • Wernicke encephalopathy involves impaired coordination, disorientation,  confusion and eye abnormalities such as double vision. In some cases, early intervention can successfully resolve these symptoms.
  • Korsakoff syndrome, or alcoholic dementia, is a long-term issue resulting in an array of cognitive issues such as an inability to recall events and difficulty processing new information. As this phase progresses, people may resort to a type of storytelling called confabulation to fill in upsetting memory gaps.

What Causes WKS?

Issues like poverty, AIDS and the need for kidney dialysis can also cause the thiamine deficiency leading to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Still, the malnutrition associated with long-term alcohol abuse is the most significant risk factor for wet brain. 

Heavy drinkers tend to make other unhealthy lifestyle choices, including getting most of their daily calories from alcohol and eating primarily processed foods instead of choosing a balanced, whole-food diet. Even if you are careful to plan nutritious meals with plenty of fresh produce and lean protein sources, gut inflammation resulting from organ and tissue damage can prevent your body from absorbing dietary nutrients and using them to their fullest potential. 

Treatment for Wet Brain and Alcohol Abuse

Without treatment, WKS will likely continue worsening, potentially leading to an early death. However, early intervention can save your life. Medical treatments like taking high-dose thiamine supplements can ease some of the symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. In diagnosing WKS, your doctor may run a battery of tests, including a liver function screening and nutritional analysis to determine your malnutrition level.

To recover from wet brain, you’ll also have to quit drinking, which might seem like an insurmountable obstacle if you use alcohol as your primary coping mechanism. Once you become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol, you can experience uncomfortable or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop drinking. Achieving lasting sobriety requires addressing the root causes of alcohol use disorder in a long-term treatment program.

Prioritize Your Health and Healing

If you are worried about the long-term health consequences of drinking for yourself and your family, Canyon Crossing is here to help. We offer women’s-only mental health and addiction treatment in Prescott, Arizona. Recovering in a single-gender environment creates a supportive, nurturing culture where women support each other in their recovery goals and gain the tools necessary to live a fulfilling, alcohol-free life. 

Because we believe cost should not be an obstacle to women getting the treatment they need, we accept many major health insurance plans and are happy to work with you to verify your coverage. Contact us today if you’re ready to make a fresh start.

Benefits of Residential AddictionTreatment

You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick. This is the philosophy behind our residential addiction treatment program. At Canyon Crossing, women learn to live life on life’s terms while staying in a safe, substance-free setting. This gives our clients the space and peace needed for lasting recovery.
Our residential program combines high-accountability sober living arrangements with first-rate clinical care. While staying in our homes, clients participate in process groups, one-on-one counseling sessions, and hands-on learning opportunities. They also receive ongoing training; in these meetings, life skills like financial management and conflict resolution are imparted. All of this happens with 24/7 encouragement, guidance, and supervision from our clinical team.
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