What Is Alcoholic Encephalopathy?

Alcoholic encephalopathy, also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or wet brain, is a condition in which the body does not absorb nutrients properly, leading to brain damage, notes Medical News Today. Alcohol interferes with the proper absorption of nutrients, and alcoholics are at even higher risk because they tend to have poor diets.

Thiamin, or vitamin B-1, assists the energy production needed for brain neurons to function properly, and alcoholism is a common cause of thiamin deficiency, states Medical News Today. People with alcoholic encephalopathy display initial symptoms of damage to the nerves in the brain such as an uneven gait and abnormal eye movements. People with alcoholic encephalopathy may also have hallucinations, experience memory loss, and suffer from alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as sweating and tremors. Without proper treatment, people with the condition can develop psychiatric disorders from their brain damage and suffer from dementia.

Doctors treat patients with alcoholic encephalopathy with thiamin replacement to help with symptoms such as vision loss and coordination problems, and to prevent further damage, though the treatment does not generally help with amnesia and psychosis that have already occurred, according to Medical News Today. In order to prevent recurrences, patients with the condition must completely abstain from alcohol and eat healthy diets.