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What are Alcoholic Dementia Symptoms?

Excessive consumption of alcohol often leads to several health problems, including liver damage, stomach problems, and impaired cognitive function. If the time period in which large quantities are consumed is relatively short, many of the alcohol-related health problems can be treated and cured by quitting drinking and getting special treatments. However, if alcohol consumption is abused over several years, it not only leads to severe health issues, such as cirrhosis of the liver, but it may also lead to a condition known as alcoholic dementia. This condition can cause problems with learning, memory, and a wide range of other cognitive skills. The alcoholic dementia symptoms vary from person-to-person, but there are two factors that influence the symptoms: Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Dementia-The Progression

Alcoholic dementia can occur in people of all ages and is generally the result of regularly abusing alcohol over several years. The progression of alcoholic dementia symptoms usually starts with Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which then progresses into Korsakoff Syndrome, which causes extremely serious memory problems that lead to alcoholic dementia. It takes time for the process to fully develop, but the disease is incurable. There are several symptoms that indicate the onset of alcoholic dementia, including:

  • Headaches
  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Mood swings
  • Slurred speech
  • Gaps in memory loss

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Alcohol dementia is also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which is a group of neurological conditions that are caused by a thiamine deficiency. When the body is deficient in thiamine (vitamin B1), the brain struggles with processing sugar into energy, which is necessary for brain functioning. In turn, the deficiency leads to the development of dementia symptoms, such as confusion and memory loss. The Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is comprised of two separate conditions; Wernicke encephalopathy (develops first) and Korsakoff syndrome, which often begins as the Wernicke encephalopathy symptoms are ending. Although alcoholic dementia is a combination of both conditions, each condition has its own unique set of symptoms, including:

Wernicke’s encephalopathy (acute phase)

  • Staggering gait
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems with speech
  • Abnormal back and forth eye movements
  • Double vision
  • Eyelid drooping
  • Confusion
  • Leg tremors
  • Decreased muscle coordination
  • Mental confusion

Korsakoff Syndrome (chronic phase)

  • Memory loss, including the ability to form new memories or retrieve old memories
  • Hallucinations
  • Confabulation, which means making up stories to fill in the gaps of memory loss relating to stories of the past
  • Repeating questions numerous times within a short period of time
  • Noticeable changes in personality

One of the first and earliest signs of the potential development of alcoholic dementia is having regular alcohol-related “blackouts”, which are extremely dangerous for the human brain and the blackouts are a contributing factor to alcoholic dementia. Early treatment is critical for the successful treatment of alcoholic dementia. If the condition is caught and treated early enough, those with the general and early onset of alcoholic dementia symptoms may show vast improvement. The best treatment for early-onset is to quit drinking alcohol and by improving their diet to include vitamin-enriched foods. If early symptoms are ignored and the person continues to consume alcohol, the stages of alcoholic dementia will continue to progress until the point of it being incurable.


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