According to Nikola Djordjevic, MD stated, “Alcohol consumption in moderate amounts has not been found to cause dementia or any other cognitive impairments. However, excessive alcohol use and abuse in old age have been associated with changes in brain structure that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and variants of dementia.” There was a study in 2018 though that discovered that heavy drinking did increase the overall risk of dementia by roughly about three times. Thus, there is some correlation between alcoholism and dementia.
To thoroughly answer the question, “Can alcoholism cause dementia?”. Yes, it can cause dementia and it also increases the risk of various other specific medical conditions such as damage to a person’s cardiovascular system, including high blood pressure. Research has increasingly linked heart disease risk factors and heart disease to a raised risk of developing dementia from drinking.
According to The Alzheimer’s Association, alcoholism has been known to cause a more rare type of dementia called Korsakoff syndrome. This form of alcoholic dementia appears when an individual is deficient in vitamin B1 or thiamine, which is a deficiency that is much more widespread among chronic alcoholics.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is considered an umbrella term that is used to describe several syndromes of impaired brain functioning, which might include a decline in reasoning abilities and thinking, along with memory loss. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are crucial issues, affecting almost about 6 million Americans.
In the United States, dementia and alcohol-induced dementia is a major concern. If you are asking, “What is alcohol-induced dementia?”, it’ll be revealed throughout the blog.
Statistics showcase that between 60% to 80% of various dementia cases are credited to Alzheimer’s disease. When individuals are of age 75 and older, it accounts for up to 72% of Alzheimer’s cases.
About 6.2 million Americans of age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. There are about 5.6 million Americans who are of age 65 or older who have some form of dementia. About 200,000 Americans who are 65 and younger have a more younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, alcoholism and dementia strongle correlate with one another. Thus, high levels of alcohol consumption can be the overall risk of dementia development. This blog will further answer, “Can alcoholism cause dementia?” and “What is alcohol-induced dementia?”
Different Forms of Dementia
There are numerous forms of dementia. Some forms of dementia are described below.
This disease is rarer than Alzheimer’s and it most commonly affects individuals under the age of 60. One interesting bit of information about frontotemporal dementia is that people that suffer from it tend to have unusual amounts of types of proteins in the brain. Frontotemporal dementia is considered to be an autoimmune disease.
Lewy Body Dementia
This autoimmune type of dementia usually results from unusual deposits of protein more so known as Lewy bodies.
Mixed dementia involves a combination of various dementia types.
The most common autoimmune form of dementia among older individuals is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is strongly correlated with specific types of brain changes, including compulsive protein buildup known as tau tangles and amyloid plaques.
This form of dementia develops more so as a result of impaired blood flow to an individual’s brain or damage to blood vessels in a person’s brain due to mini-strokes or strokes in general.
Can Alcohol Speed up Dementia? Can Alcohol-Induced Dementia Be Reversed?
Alcoholism and dementia are strongly correlated with one another because alcoholism can speed up dementia. It’s also essential to remember that excessive drinking can cause brain damage. Such brain damage can then increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and various other forms of dementia. Unlike various forms of dementia though, alcohol-induced dementia can be reversed in some cases.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dementia?
There are various signs and symptoms of dementia and alcohol-induced dementia. It’s important to note that not everyone has the same exact dementia or alcohol-induced dementia symptoms. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of dementia though are listed below.
- Forgetting recent things, such as conversations, events, or even the names of individuals that you know well
- Referring to familiar objects with uncommon words
- New challenges paying bills or managing money
- Unexpected visual changes that don’t allocate to aging
- Difficulties reasoning, solving problems, or focusing
- Trouble speaking, writing, reading, or controlling emotions
- Coordination or balance problems
- Becoming disoriented in familiar areas
- Difficulties learning new things
- Asking the same questions
- Personality changes
- Impaired judgment
- Memory loss
What Is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a disease that is prevalent in the United States. This isn’t surprising though as about half of Americans, which are 138.5 million individuals, that are of 12 years or older were current drinkers in 2020.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol-Induced Dementia?
The signs and symptoms of alcohol-induced dementia depend on the type of dementia an individual has. Even though the majority of individuals are familiar with the form of dementia known as Alzheimer’s disease, there are many more types of dementia. For example, primary progressive aphasia is a form of dementia that attacks a person’s language and speech, slowly robbing that person’s ability to speak.
Another type of dementia is Korsakoff Syndrome. Korsakoff Syndrome is a form of dementia that might cause an individual to lie without even realizing it. Korsakoff Syndrome can be alcohol-induced.
Regardless of the type of alcohol-induced dementia that a person suffers from, common signs and symptoms of alcohol-induced dementia include the following:
- Short-term memory issues. It’s normal for a person to forget information occasionally. However, it’s not normal for an individual to be unable to participate in a conversation because the person cannot remember anything.
- Difficulties with communicating, such as an increased difficulty reading or understanding speech or chronic word-finding challenges.
- Cognitive issues that make daily life challenging. For example, an individual with alcohol-induced dementia might have difficulties following a recipe.
- Confusion with time or place. An individual with alcohol-induced dementia might forget that he or she is even in the 21st century.
- Challenges with navigation. People with alcohol-induced dementia sometimes get lost following a familiar route.
- Unexplained personality changes
- Difficulties solving complex issues
- Poor decision-making
Can Alcohol Permanently Damage Your Brain?
Getting drunk on alcohol tends to impair a person’s coordination. Thus, that person is more likely to experience falls or accidents. Such falls and accidents can then cause head injuries.
Sometimes, such head injuries are severe enough to cause a loss of consciousness. Head injuries due to falling or some other sort of alcohol-induced accident are also linked to an increased risk of dementia.
Alcohol-induced head injuries might be known as traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, and can occur through the following:
- Car accidents
TBIs are known to cause damage to numerous areas of the brain. Such damage can start a series of changes that will allow proteins that cause dementia to assemble near the damaged area of the brain.
How Do You Know if You Suffer from Alcoholism and Dementia?
Alcohol can create numerous damaging effects on an individual’s brain. The symptoms of alcohol-related brain damage do typically vary though. Issues with cognitive functioning is one of the many common issues that alcohol-induced brain damage causes.
The symptoms of alcohol-induced dementia can vary from mild to severe. Most individuals that suffer from alcohol-induced dementia will experience some of the symptoms rather than all of them.
The alcohol-induced dementia symptoms that a person will likely experience greatly depends on which part of the person’s brain is damaged from alcohol abuse and how badly it is damaged. Note though that the majority of alcohol-induced dementia symptoms can disappear or improve as time goes on with proper treatment and care.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse
There are many negative effects of alcohol abuse. Some of these negative effects include the following:
- Difficulty walking, processing new information, and performing familiar tasks
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Slowed reaction times
- Impaired memory
- Irritability and depression
- Poor loss of inhibition and judgment
- Language problems
- Erratic behavior
- Poor decision making and choices
- Damage to the stomach, pancreas, and liver
- Wide, slow, and stumbling gait (ataxia)
- Numbness or burning sensation in legs and arms
- Pins and needles
- Muscle weakness
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Poor temperature control
Some of the above-mentioned impairments are detectable after one or two drinks and build gradually. These impairments usually resolve quickly once drinking ceases though.
The friends and family of an individual that is abusing alcohol might pick up on the symptoms before that person can even realize that there’s something wrong. The symptoms of alcohol abuse can sometimes be misunderstood for symptoms of growing in age or being stressed though.
Once a person abuses alcohol to the point of developing alcohol-induced brain damage or dementia, the symptoms are more obvious and often quite severe. For example, the symptoms of the form of dementia known as Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome are sudden and often quite severe. Symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoffe Syndrome can appear when a person is withdrawing from alcohol.
What Is Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome?
One of the most severe forms of dementia caused by alcohol-related brain damage is Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome, WKS. WKS is specifically caused by a lack of vitamin B1, or thiamine. Because people that chronically abuse heavy amounts of alcohol tend to suffer from a thiamine deficiency, the connection between alcoholism and WKS is strong.
In the past, Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome was used as an umbrella term to describe many types of alcohol-related dementias. The term alcohol-related brain damage is more useful to use instead of Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome in that case though because WKS is caused by a very specific form of alcohol-related brain damage.
WKS is made up of two elements named Korsakoff’s Psychosis and Wernicke’s Encephalopathy. The symptoms of WKS include:
- Confusion about where one is and the passage of time
- Memory loss
How Much Alcohol Do You Have to Drink to Develop Dementia?
The risk of suffering from alcohol-induced dementia was increased in a study of individuals who abstained from alcohol in their midlife and consumed roughly less than 14 units of alcohol a week. Thus, it’s important to be aware of one’s own threshold for consuming alcohol.
In numerous countries, there are guidelines that define the overall threshold for damaging alcohol consumption. It was much higher than 14 units per week. Regardless, because of how seriously negative the effects of alcoholic dementia are, it’s important to monitor one’s alcohol consumption.
Does Dementia Run In Families?
Various families are concerned if dementia from drinking can be passed down. The truth is, the majority of dementia isn’t inherited by grandchildren and children.
In very rare types of dementia, there might be a very strong genetic link. However, the amount of people that contain this genetic link to dementia is small.
What Are the Treatment Options?
If an individual suffers from alcoholism and dementia, that person will have to stop drinking to receive treatment. Attending an alcohol rehab program can help an individual reverse his or her alcohol-related dementia. Alcohol rehab can also improve the outlook on individuals with alcohol-induced dementia.
Treatment for alcoholism and dementia will commonly involve inpatient detox to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms, behavioral therapy, and high doses of thiamine. It’s also important that people in treatment for alcoholism and dementia sufficiently hydrate themselves and have a stabilized diet.
Defeat Alcoholism and Dementia at Live Free Recovery
Giving up on alcoholism to avoid developing alcohol-induced dementia can reduce the overall risk of long-term health issues that are alcohol-related. So, “What is alcohol-induced dementia?” Well, dementia caused by alcoholism. So, if you ever are in need of treatment for your alcoholism that is causing you to experience signs and symptoms of dementia, contact us here at Live Free Recovery.