How Long Can You Live With Wet Brain?

The term "wet brain" may sound harmless, or even somewhat humorous, to people who aren't familiar with what it actually means. However, it's actually very serious. The official name for the condition is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, or WKS. It stems from a vitamin B1 deficiency and is often brought on by heavy alcohol use.

Vitamin B1 is also known as thiamine and is required for the heart and nervous system to function properly. Thiamine deficiencies can happen to people who don't get proper nutrition, but it is much more commonly seen in people who drink alcohol to excess. Alcohol has the doubly negative effect of both preventing the body from absorbing enough thiamine while also sapping the thiamine that is already stored in the liver. People cannot make thiamine on their own, and it can only be taken in via the diet. Foods such as asparagus, kale, beef, eggs, and potatoes are all good thiamine sources. However, if someone eats poorly and abuses alcohol, thereby depleting their thiamine supply, they run the risk of developing wet brain.

Once a person has the condition, they can suffer from a variety of symptoms including memory problems, issues with vision, or even coma. According to Mission Harbor Behavioral Health, up to 20% of people who suffer from wet brain die from the condition. And, while there is no cure, with proper intervention, some of the symptoms can be managed and, in certain cases, reversed.

Wet brain comes in stages

Wet brain is generally broken up into two stages (via WebMD). The first of these is called Wernicke encephalopathy and appears in the early stages of the condition. Patients with Wernicke encephalopathy may experience issues with balance, tremors in the legs, or difficulty standing. They may also experience confusion, drowsiness, or fatigue.

Left untreated, Wernicke encephalopathy will give way to the second stage of wet brain, Korsakoff psychosis. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, 80% to 90% of alcoholics who suffer from Wernicke encephalopathy will develop Korsakoff psychosis. This condition is marked by problems with memory, apathy, confusion, and even fabricating events or showing signs of extreme euphoria.

There is no definitive timeline for the survival of people with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (via Silver Pines Treatment Center). The trick is to catch it as early as possible and begin to treat it. If caught in time, people can see results within two years. However, they still may suffer from brain damage and other complications as a result of the condition.

Early intervention is the best treatment

A person suffering from wet brain will generally be treated with thiamine, first intravenously and then orally (via Synergy Wellness). Following the initial treatment, they will be required to make lifestyle changes, such as changing their diet to include B1-rich foods; getting on a regimen of nutritional supplements, including thiamine; and abstaining from alcohol long-term.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to wet brain is that early intervention will make all of the difference (via Mission Harbor Behavioral Health). While not every symptom can be reversed, and some of the effects may remain permanently, the sooner a person exhibiting wet brain symptoms can get treatment, the more likely they will be to avoid serious, life-altering consequences. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from excessive alcohol use and appears to be exhibiting signs of wet brain, it is important to seek treatment as quickly as possible.