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Wet Brain Alcoholism

Things You Need To Know About Wet Brain Alcoholism

Wet brain alcoholism, also commonly called wet brain syndrome or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a deficiency of thiamine, a B vitamin.  Thiamine, also known as vitamin B1 is extremely important for a few cellular processes involving amino acid synthesis and glucose metabolism.

Having a thiamine deficiency can create such an extreme havoc on your brain because unlike many other organs in your body, it require a consistent glucose supply from your blood but does not have a storing ability.  Additionally, many neurotransmitters such as aspartate and glutamate are amino acids that depend on other amino acids in order to complete their synthesis.  This thiamine deficiency found in wet brain alcoholism can also result in another disease called beriberi.

Causes Of Wet Brain Alcoholism

The most common cause of wet brain syndrome is alcoholism which is why the name of wet brain alcoholism is used more often when referring to the disease.  People that suffer from severe alcoholism drink so much and so often that their bodies are neglected by other nutritional sources.  This results in a vitamin B1 deficiency and overall malnutrition.

Alcoholics not only lack thiamine, they suffer damage to their intestinal systems so that they do not absorb nutrients very well and also often are affected by liver damage which leads to a reduction of thiamine being processed.  Your brain needs a sufficient amount of thiamine or else over time significant amounts of brain cells can die resulting in severe structural damage to certain parts of the brain.  The brain stem and cerebral cortex are the primary affected parts of the brain.


Wet brain alcoholism is characterized by various psychiatric and neurological symptoms.  Two of the most common symptoms are confusion and ataxia which is also found in alcohol intoxication which is why the disease is often very difficult to diagnose in alcoholics.  There are also many symptoms that involve the eye such as eye muscle paralysis, tremor, unequal pupil size and very slow pupil reflexes when reacting to light.

The psychosis symptoms of wet brain alcoholism include hallucinations, amnesia and confabulations which is an occurrence where the affected person incorporates a figment or fantasy into their working memory.  An example would be telling the person a made up story of an event in which they took part in and they believe it to be true and can add details to the event even though it never happened.

How Serious Is It?

If left untreated, wet brain alcoholism can lead to a coma and even death.  Sadly, if psychosis and amnesia have already occurred, a full recovery is highly unlikely.  Since most alcoholics are malnourished, an obvious intervention is to offer the patient glucose, however giving someone glucose that has a thiamine deficiency without additionally giving them thiamine can result in a traumatic exacerbation of the wet brain alcoholism into a full blown encephalopathy.  This is a syndrome of brain dysfunction which is permanent. 


Patients that are suffering from early stages can often respond well to very large intravenous doses of thiamine, often seeing substantial improvements.  However, late stages will generally not benefit from treatment at all.

The mortality rate is around 20 percent.  Prompt treatment though can usually lead to mental recovery for 20 percent of patients, atoxia recovery for 40 percent and irregular eye movement recovery for 60 percent.

Most patients that are diagnosed with wet brain alcoholism have abused alcohol for many years.  It is most commonly found in the homeless and elderly.  If you know of anyone who you think may be affected by this syndrome, they need to seek medical attention immediately.

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