What exactly is wet brain? Wet brain syndrome is otherwise known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This syndrome has a variety of causes that all converge on a central factor of vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is an essential nutrient required for proper tissue functioning — especially in the muscles and the brain. In most cases, individuals can receive plenty of thiamine through their diet.

If people include high protein foods such as red meat, beans or brown rice in their diets, they can typically meet their daily thiamine needs. Thiamine’s main function in the body is to help certain proteins known as enzymes to break down sugars for energy. Without enough of this vital nutrient, the energy requirements of the body are not met and the results may be fatal. Thus, individuals that have been diagnosed with wet brain syndrome, whatever the cause, may be at risk for damaging their central nervous system.

What Causes Wet Brain?

In order to understand wet brain, a person must understand that there are essentially two different forms of this condition. One form of wet brain is referred to as Wernicke’s encephalopathy which is a degenerative brain disorder. The cause of wet brain, in this case, may be from a thiamine deficiency due to:

  • Alcohol abuse or alcoholism (alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction)
  • Thiamine dietary deficiency
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Eating disorders (e.g. bulimia or anorexia)
  • Side effects of chemotherapy (e.g. cancer treatment)

Thiamine deficiency from the encephalopathy form of wet brain can lead to brain damage in the hypothalamus and thalamus brain regions which are important for regulating hormones and body temperature.

The other form of wet brain is referred to as Korsakoff’s syndrome and negatively affects a person’s memory. This condition leads to central nervous system damage including damage to nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain regions.

What causes wet brain in this instance? Korsakoff’s syndrome is usually seen in people struggling with alcohol use disorders rather than some of the causes associated with Wernicke’s encephalopathy.

Wet Brain Symptoms

What are the symptoms of wet brain? The symptoms of wet brain depend on whether a person’s thiamine deficiency is predominantly from Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Korsakoff’s syndrome. A person experiencing wet brain symptoms from alcoholism may symptoms from one or both forms of wet brain. Typical wet brain symptoms may include:

  • Wernicke’s Encephalopathy: confusion, decreased muscle control, reduced mental faculties, vision changes, withdrawal from alcohol
  • Korsakoff’s Syndrome: hallucinations, problems with memory recall and formation of new memories, elaborating or making up stories

Can You Die From Wet Brain?

Can a person die from wet brain? The answer is that yes, it is possible to die from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or wet brain. However, alcoholic wet brain is a disease that gets progressively worse over time. If a person does not receive adequate treatment for this disease, then it is possible to progress into a coma or death.

Is There a Wet Brain Cure?

Is there a wet brain cure? Unfortunately, there is not a cure-all for severe bodily damage caused by a thiamine deficiency. The progression of wet brain disorder can, however, be halted or slowed down. Typically, wet brain caused by drinking alcohol can be treated by administering thiamine to patients. Individuals are also recommended to abstain from alcohol.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.