Wet brain, also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), is a neurological disorder that can occur in individuals who have a severe and chronic alcohol use disorder.
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WKS are actually two distinct syndromes that often occur together: Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome.
Wernicke encephalopathy is the acute and reversible phase of the disorder that is caused by a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1), which is common in alcoholics who have poor nutrition. It is characterized by symptoms such as confusion, problems with coordination, double vision, and abnormal eye movements.
If Wernicke encephalopathy is not treated promptly with thiamine, it can progress to Korsakoff syndrome, which is a chronic and often irreversible form of memory loss. In Korsakoff syndrome, individuals may have difficulty forming new memories, experience gaps in their memory, and may confabulate or make up stories to fill in gaps in their memory. They may also have difficulty with learning, attention, and perception.
Common symptoms of WKS may include:
- Confusion and disorientation: People with wet brain may have difficulty thinking clearly or making decisions.
- Memory problems: People with wet brain may have trouble remembering recent events or forming new memories.
- Eye problems: Wet brain can cause abnormal eye movements, such as rapid eye movements or jerky eye movements.
- Ataxia: Wet brain can also cause difficulty with coordination and balance.
- Weakness or numbness: Some individuals with wet brain may experience weakness or numbness in their legs or arms.
- Loss of appetite: People with wet brain may have a decreased appetite and may lose weight.
- Personality changes: Wet brain can cause changes in personality, including irritability, apathy, or a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed.
Treatment for WKS typically involves high-dose thiamine injections to replenish the body’s supply of the vitamin, along with other supportive care to manage symptoms and prevent further damage to the brain. However, the success of treatment depends on how quickly the disorder is diagnosed and treated. If left untreated, WKS can be fatal.