Clinical testings and quantitative analysis have proven that excessive alcohol can result to structural and functional organ damage as well as brain abnormalities. For one, alcoholics can develop liver cirrhosis (liver with scarred tissue) that can impact the brain. It is also possible that with chronic drinking, one may have a poor diet that will lead to Vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency. This can also cause severe brain damage and dysfunction.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is a term for two medical conditions that often happen together – Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff psychosis. While the Wernicke disease happens suddenly such that treatment is needed right away, Korsakoff patients experience long-term cognitive issues, including memory loss. (1)
Wernicke sufferers may have the following:
- Confusion – You may feel confused of what is going around you.
- Loss of muscle coordination – Your arms and legs may feel weak such that standing up and walking will be a little difficult.
- Vision problems – Your eyes may move around quickly and you may have double-vision.
In addition to the above symptoms, there may be a feeling of dizziness when standing up due to low blood pressure. A patient may also feel a faster heartbeat but with less energy; and even feel drowsy or faint. With no immediate treatment, Wernicke encephalopathy can lead to Korsakoff syndrome. (1)
“Korsakoff syndrome, also called Korsakoff dementia, Korsakoff psychosis, or amnesic-confabulatory syndrome, is a life-altering, permanent neuropsychiatric condition characterized by anterograde and retrograde amnesia as well as frontal lobe dysfunction and affective disturbance.” (2)
With the Korsakoff syndrome, learning is impaired because remembering new things and recent events becomes difficult. However, other thinking and social skills are relatively unaffected. An individual may seem to be able to converse properly but later forgets that occurrence entirely. (3)
This chronic memory disorder is caused by severe vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency. It is most commonly caused by alcohol abuse although some other conditions may also cause this brain-debilitating disease. (3)
(1) What Is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome? (2018, January 11). In WebMD Medical Reference. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/brain/wernicke-korsakoff-syndrome-facts#1.
(2) McCormick, L. M., Buchanan, J. R., Onwuameze, O. E., Pierson, Ronald K., and Paradiso, S., (2013, January 22). Beyond Alcoholism: Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome in Patients With Psychiatric Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551444/#R3.
(3) Korsakoff Syndrome. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2019 from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/korsakoff-syndrome.