Alcoholic Dementia: How Excessive Drinking Causes Dementia?

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Do you know that there can be multiple side effects of excessive drinking… such as high blood pressure, liver diseases, anger, depression, or anxiety? Alcohol dementia is one of the mental health effects of binge drinking or excessive drinking. This condition is known by different names such as alcohol-related dementia (ARD), Korsakoff’s syndrome, and alcohol-induced major neurocognitive disorder.

Alcoholic dementia causes memory issues, cognitive problems, learning, and judgment issues. In this blog, we will be taking a deep look at what is alcoholic dementia, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and more.

So, let’s get started!

What is Alcoholic Dementia?

Alcohol has direct effects on physical and mental health. Excessive consumption of alcohol on a regular basis starts affecting brain cells which results in poor judgment, decision-making, and lack of insight. In some cases, excessive alcoholism may develop into alcoholic dementia.

Herein, research shows that nutritional problems also play a major role in the development of alcohol-related dementia because vitamin deficiencies damage various parts of the brain.

Dementia is similar to Alzheimer’s disease as it also damages cognitive ability and memory. Scientifically, alcohol-related dementia is referred to as Wernicke- Korsakoff’s Syndrome (WKS) which is the combination of two disorders Korsakoff Syndrome and Wernicke’s encephalopathy.

Alcoholic dementia is a progressive disorder wherein the symptoms are likely to happen in stages and keep on worsening (especially if left untreated).

Causes of Alcoholic Dementia

Research shows that alcoholic dementia is not only caused by excessive usage of alcohol but also by nutrition deficiencies. Specifically, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) deficiency plays an important role in the development of alcoholic dementia. In scientific language, excessive consumption of alcohol blocks thiamine absorption in the gut which results in thiamine deficiency.

Prolonged deficiency of thiamine causes damage in nerve cells permanently. Apart from Vitamin B1, alcohol dementia can also be caused by other nutritional deficiencies due to irregular eating habits, binge drinking, and poor nutritional intake.

Mental Health Effects of Alcoholic Dementia

Most research states that excessive alcoholism has side effects on cardiac health. However, there was limited research on the mental health effects of alcoholic dementia. Research shows that moderate drinking leads to shrinkage of the hippocampus (brain’s area) wherein new memories are formed.

Meanwhile, excessive drinking leads to impaired memory, less judgment, lack of attention span, and weakened cognitive functioning which results in confusion, delirium, and brain fog.

Additionally, alcohol-related brain damage can be seen in the form of:

Drastic change in personality
Decreased impulse
Less emotional control
Conflicted behaviour
Issues with memory, attention, and concentration

In severe cases, physical health can also be seen reducing drastically in the form of:

Leg tremors
Vision changes
Difficulty maintaining balance
Staggering

Symptoms of Alcoholic Dementia

Below listed are some of the important signs and symptoms of alcoholic dementia:

Agitation
Anger
Confabulation or fabrication
Forgetfulness
Short-term memory
Delirium
Difficulty in executive functioning such as planning or organizing
Hallucinations
Issues with motor abilities
Issues with problem-solving
Impaired memory
Lack of emotional control

Diagnosis of Alcoholic Dementia

One of the major signs and symptoms of alcoholic dementia is impaired memory. Therefore, if you find yourself or your loved one struggling with impaired memory, connect with your physician for a proper diagnosis.

Apart from impaired memory, alcoholic dementia can be diagnosed in the form of Agnosia (failure to identify objects), aphasia (disturbed language), apraxia (impaired motor functioning), and disturbed executive functioning such as organizing or planning.

During diagnosis, a physician may ask questions related to cognitive functioning or daily functioning. A detailed diagnosis of alcoholic dementia may cover:

A detailed history of the patient
Physical examinations (Abnormal eye movement, abnormal or reduced reflexes, low blood pressure, and others)
Lab tests (Urine culture, blood tests, cardiac health, and others)
Determination of patient’s physical and mental health based on substance misuse
Examination of the nervous system

Treatment of Alcoholic Dementia

If you or your loved one is struggling with the symptoms of alcohol-related dementia, know that early diagnosis and treatment may avoid worsening and progression of the disease. In mild cases, quitting alcohol and thiamine-rich diets may help treat alcoholic dementia. Quitting alcohol will prevent the damage occurring in the brain.

In some cases, the effects of alcoholic dementia are reversible; therefore, quitting alcohol and a multi-nutrient-rich diet are important steps to treat alcoholic dementia. In cases of weakened problem-solving ability, memories, or attention, you may also connect with a mental health professional.

Additionally, you can also join sobriety groups for quitting alcohol effectively. Here are some other effective ways to treat alcoholic dementia:

Join support groups.
Stay balanced and promote self-care to fulfill your physical, spiritual, and emotional needs
Eat a micronutrient-rich diet to support positive brain functioning.
Manage your cravings with healthy alternative options such as herbal teas, detox water, and others.
Maintain a strict routine and keep communicating your feelings with your loved ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can alcohol abuse cause dementia?

Research shows that there’s a strong link between excessive alcoholism and dementia. One study revealed that people who drink excessively or are engaged in binge drinking are at the risk of developing dementia as compared to people who drink occasionally.

2. What is the life expectancy of someone with alcohol dementia?

According to studies, after getting diagnosed with alcohol dementia, people can expect five-year survival.

3. What is alcohol dementia called?

Alcohol dementia is also called Korsakoff syndrome. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5), alcohol dementia is mentioned as an alcohol-induced major neurocognitive disorder.

4. What are the 5 signs of Korsakoff’s syndrome?

5 important signs of Korsakoff’s syndrome are vision-related issues, hypothermia, low blood pressure, mental confusion, and coma.

5. Does alcohol affect your memory?

Yes, research shows that alcohol abuse disrupts the formation of long-term memories.

I hope this blog helps you understand everything you want to know about alcoholic dementia. Comment down and share your queries related to alcoholic dementia or you can also write to us at Calm Sage.

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Thanks for reading!

The post Alcoholic Dementia: How Excessive Drinking Causes Dementia? appeared first on Calm Sage – Your Guide to Mental and Emotional Well-being.

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