Symptoms and causes

A thiamine deficiency over a long period of time can cause brain atrophy or damage. Alcohol-related dementia is a type of brain disorder where a person develops issues with thinking or processing and memory. There are two main subtypes, including Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome, though experts may refer to them together as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. If you suspect you have this condition, reach out to a healthcare professional as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.

can alcoholism cause dementia

Prevention is the key to reducing the risk of any major health problems and psychosocial consequences of heavy drinking. If you have difficulty controlling your alcohol use and want help, there are many treatment options and resources to help you through your journey toward sobriety and wellness. Prompt treatment with thiamine (vitamin B1) for people with Wernicke encephalopathy can potentially prevent or lessen the development of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

What can happen if a person drinks too much alcohol on a regular basis?

A vitamin B1 deficiency resulting from excessive alcohol consumption may also cause Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, rather than the disorder being a direct result of alcohol misuse. A 2019 review found a significant association between reducing a person’s alcohol consumption with a lower risk of cognitive impairments and dementia. Excessive drinking over a period of years may lead to a condition commonly known as alcoholic dementia, or alcohol-related dementia (ARD). In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR), it is referred to as alcohol-induced major neurocognitive disorder. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a health condition encountered in patients who lack a certain substance called thiamine.

  • This is of particular concern when you're taking certain medications that also depress the brain's function.
  • Joining a support group can also be helpful at this stage of treatment.
  • Cognitive remediation therapy based management programs have been investigated in very few studies in alcohol-dependent patients (82, 84) with encouraging results.
  • Many studies show that heavy drinkers have less brain volume overall with evidence of impaired memory, attention span, judgment, and other aspects of cognitive functioning.

Dealing with all these issues is important for helping the person to stay alcohol-free, and to reduce the symptoms of alcohol-related ‘dementia’. It aims to stop the person drinking alcohol and make their health more stable. Most people with alcohol-related ‘dementia’ will need to stay in hospital for this. Excessive alcohol consumption in mid-life, for example, can cause significant neurotoxic effects on the brain.

Causes of alcoholic dementia

They will need different kinds of support, which may not always be easy to access. After the first part of treatment, a person with alcohol-related ‘dementia’ will need support from different kinds of services. They may be treated with drugs that mimic the effect of alcohol on the brain to can alcoholism cause dementia reduce  withdrawal symptoms. The person will also be given fluids and salts, and high doses of thiamine (vitamin B1) by injection. In order to make a diagnosis of alcohol-related ‘dementia’, a doctor may ask the person to do a paper-based test to check for problems with memory and thinking.

  • Having comparatively spared implicit and procedural memories, patients typically have profound antegrade amnesia and impaired recall, with recall being better for more remote events (54, 55).
  • If you have depression and drink too much alcohol, then you may be wondering if there are any treatments or lifestyle changes for someone in your situation.
  • The results are heterogeneous concerning light to moderate consumption, while there is a consensus regarding high consumption and elevated dementia risk (see Table 2).
  • Patients with WKS demonstrate similar but more severe lesions in form of deficits in regional brain volumes (mammillary bodies, thalamus, cerebellar hemispheres, and vermis) than alcoholic patients without WKS (47).

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