Alcoholic Dementia Can Alcohol Use Cause Dementia?

Alcohol-related dementia is a medical condition that eventually leads to a decline in mental health. The chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters that excessive, long-term alcohol use creates confuses brain functions. If someone you love has developed an alcohol use disorder and is acting differently than they used to, convince them to be evaluated by a medical professional.

Relatively quick and inexpensive, the case-control design is a standard epidemiologic approach used to identify potential risk factors and to determine whether more extensive studies are warranted. Thiamine deficiency is common among people with alcohol use disorder, which is a problem because nerve cells require thiamine to function properly. Epidemiological studies show an association between long-term alcohol intoxication and dementia. Alcohol can damage the brain directly as a neurotoxin, or it can damage it indirectly by causing malnutrition, primarily a loss of thiamine . Alcohol use disorder is common in older persons, and alcohol-related dementia is under-diagnosed.

The Link Between Alcohol Use and Early-Onset Dementia

There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time. If Wernicke encephalopathy is suspected, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. In very rare types of dementia, there might be a very strong genetic link.

  • Simply put, excessive drinking over a long period of time causes Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome and other forms of alcoholic dementia.
  • The symptoms of alcohol abuse can sometimes be misunderstood for symptoms of growing in age or being stressed though.
  • Subsequent case-control (Wang et al. 1997) and cross-sectional studies (Callahan et al. 1996) also have failed to provide evidence of an association between alcohol use and AD.

For example, some reports suggest that light-to-moderate alcohol use can reduce dementia risk as compared to those who have abstained from alcohol. In contrast, other studies report that alcohol use does not impact the risk of dementia. Excessive alcohol consumption in mid-life, for example, can cause significant neurotoxic effects on the brain.

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Alcohol dementia, in general, is characterized by problems with memory, learning, and overall cognitive function. A person with alcoholic dementia may often struggle with their memory to the point where they create fabricated, detailed stories to fill in the gaps. A person with a drinking problem who does not undergo an alcohol detox or treatment is at risk of developing this condition. It thus may also be useful to consider evidence from epidemiologic studies examining the association between alcohol use and cognitive outcomes other than AD.

can alcoholism cause dementia

Korsakoff syndrome is a chronic memory disorder caused by severe deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B-1). Korsakoff syndrome is most commonly caused by alcohol misuse, but certain other conditions also can cause the syndrome. While alcohol is best known for the damage it can cause in the liver and kidneys, heavy drinking and dementia have also been linked. Below are the most common signs of alcohol dementia that you should look out for if you or someone you know has a history of heavy drinking. The effects of alcohol abuse on the brain include severe brain damage. There are several medical tests that can be performed to help determine if a person has alcoholic dementia.

Associations between dimensions of alcohol use and specific brain functions

Investigators assessed dementia risk using changes in alcohol consumption over a 2-year period in nearly four million people in Korea. After about 7 years, dementia was 21% less likely in mild drinkers and 17% less likely in moderate drinkers. The signs and symptoms of alcohol-induced dementia depend on the type of dementia an individual has. Even though the majority of individuals can alcoholism cause dementia 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. Alcoholism and dementia are strongly correlated with one another because alcoholism can speed up dementia.

Once acute symptoms improve, individuals should be carefully evaluated to determine if their medical history, alcohol use and pattern of memory problems may be consistent with Korsakoff syndrome. For those who develop Korsakoff syndrome, extended treatment with oral thiamine, other vitamins and magnesium may increase chances of symptom improvement. If there is no improvement, consideration should be given to treatment of comorbid deficiencies and medical conditions, and the need for long-term residential care or supportive accommodation.

Risks Persist

Conversely, moderate alcohol use appears to have a detrimental impact on brain structure and may therefore increase dementia risk. A recent study scrutinized the relationship between alcohol and dementia. The researchers found that alcohol use disorders are a major risk factor for all types of dementia. Some vitamins and nutrients may help prevent alcohol dementia or treat it once it has already begun. Vitamin B1 supplements help in reducing symptoms of some forms of dementia. Other vitamins that may be helpful include vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6 and B12, and folate, which helps prevent memory loss.

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