Does Alcohol Cause Dementia?

There are many health-effects that are related to alcohol, both in the short and long-term. For example, chronic, excessive drinking can lead to an increased chance of developing many types of cancer, and it can also lead to a higher risk of liver problems and obesity.

It’s not just physical health concerns to consider with the use of alcohol, particularly excessively, however. There are also mental and psychological conditions that can be made worse with alcohol use or can develop as a result of chronic drinking.

One question people frequently have is does alcohol cause dementia? Some studies and research show the potential for alcohol-induced dementia, and details of this condition are below.

Image of older gentleman appears sad and is looking down with head resting on palm of hand.
First and foremost before looking at the links between alcohol-induced dementia and long-term alcohol use, alcoholism is defined as uncontrollable consumption of alcohol, even in the face of various consequences.

Alcoholism can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and a range of other health problems, but it can also change the chemistry of the brain, and it destroys brain cells.

There is a condition called alcohol-related dementia or ARD, and this stems from the long-term, excessive abuse of alcohol. Korsakoff’s Syndrome is a form of ARD which causes memory problems and loss are key symptoms of this condition.

With ARD, which is a particular type of alcohol-induced dementia, people who regularly use alcohol start to experience symptoms related to damage to their frontal lobes in their brain. This can start to manifest as a loss of inhibition or a lack of consideration for consequences of behavior.

Along with the fact that long-term use of alcohol directly impacts the frontal lobes of the brain and the brain cells, alcoholism can also contribute to brain problems because of vitamin deficiencies. Those vitamin deficiencies damage the brain and can also lead to changes in personality. When someone is an alcoholic, they tend to have a diet that is lacking in proper nutrients, and this malnutrition can play a significant role in the cognitive side effects of alcoholism.

Korsakoff’s Syndrome as an example is caused primarily by a lack of thiamine (Vitamin B1). It’s a secondary consequence of alcoholism and alcohol abuse in many people, and it leads to vision changes and memory impairment. In many cases, people die from this condition because they don’t receive proper treatment, or people who suffer from it have permanent brain damage. Around ¼ of people with permanent brain damage from Korsakoff Syndrome require long-term care in an institutional setting.

When someone has alcohol-induced dementia, it can make it difficult for them to communicate and speak, in addition to having memory problems. It can also start to become difficult to perform complex motor tasks, including getting dressed. When you’re a heavy abuser of alcohol, you may also experience nerve damage in the arms and legs, which can make certain activities even more difficult.

In addition to the actual alcohol-induced dementia, which includes memory issues primarily, there are secondary symptoms and conditions that can appear as well. These can include depression, anxiety, psychosis and changes in personality. Sometimes the damage that occurs to the frontal lobe in alcoholics can be confused with depression when in reality the condition is alcohol-induced dementia.

So, does alcohol cause dementia? In short, yes and there are similarities between alcohol-induced dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, despite the fact that they’re clinically distinct from one another.

Some of the signs of alcohol-induced dementia can include memory loss, problems performing tasks that are familiar, judgment problems and issues with language. In addition to these symptoms of alcohol-induced dementia, many friends and family members of people suffering from this condition will initially start to notice changes in personality.

With Korsakoff Syndrome, which essentially means the brain is becoming atrophied, there are symptoms including not only confusion but also paranoia and agitation. People with Korsakoff’s Syndrome may also experience problems with muscle coordination and involuntary eye movements.

Does alcohol cause dementia is the first question a lot of people have, and then the next question is whether or not it can be treated? If someone is experiencing symptoms of alcohol-induced dementia because they have a nutritional deficiency, some of the initial changes include dietary shifts, but in some people, the damage has progressed to the point that this will do little to help.

With alcohol-induced dementia or ARD, the first step is to participate in an alcohol treatment program. It’s essential to completely stop using alcohol, and if the signs of alcohol-induced dementia are caught early, a person has a high likelihood of living a fulfilling life, as long as they eliminate alcohol. If someone’s alcohol-induced dementia has progressed very far, it can be difficult to adjust to a life without alcohol, but it is possible.

The best thing to do in order to avoid alcohol-induced dementia is, of course, to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation. It’s also important to have a healthy, balanced diet. If you think that you are an alcoholic, you should seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid the progression of your condition and resulting effects that can occur including alcohol-induced dementia.




Does Alcohol Cause Dementia?
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