Alcohol and Alzheimer’s: Answering Your FAQs

After excluding those with diagnosed dementia, cognition tests revealed clues that neurological decline may be seen as early as nine years before diagnosis. Other diseases or injuries cause dementia by impacting the brain directly or indirectly. More than 1 million Americans suffer from dementia with Lewy bodies. It’s the second most prevalent type, characterized by abnormal deposits of a protein called alpha-synuclein in brain nerve cells that control thinking, memory, and movement.

can alcoholism cause dementia

Supporting a person with alcohol-related ‘dementia’ can be challenging for their carer, friends and family. They will need different kinds of support, which may not always be easy to access. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia, alcohol-related ‘dementia’ is not certain to get worse over time. With the right treatment and support, there is often a good chance that it will stop getting worse or improve.

End Stage Alcohol-Related Dementia

Symptoms tend to develop gradually and worsen over time if you continue drinking. But when confusion reigns most of the time—daily tasks are challenging, it becomes difficult to speak, remember words, handle money, or visually judge distance—a diagnosis becomes simpler. While it mainly affects older people, “it’s not part of normal aging,” Rittman notes. Multiple alcohol-related cognitive syndromes have been described, of which the two most important are alcohol-related dementia (ARD) and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS). To find alcohol treatment for yourself or a loved one, visit the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator. Alcohol is a factor in about 30% of suicides and fatal motor vehicle crashes, 40% of fatal burn injuries, 50% of fatal drownings and homicides, and 65% of fatal falls.

But Korsakoff syndrome can also develop in individuals who have not had a prior episode of Wernicke encephalopathy. In the long-term, chronic alcohol use increases the risk of permanent brain damage. While there is still some debate on whether alcohol can cause Alzheimer’s disease, there is a clear consensus that those who already have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia should not drink alcohol. Alcohol causes cognitive impairment that can greatly increase the risk of injury with these conditions.

Signs and symptoms

Patients may also experience recurrent hallucinations, tremors, or rigidity, erratic blood pressure, heart rate, or other automatic body dysfunctions. Sometimes, families, friends, and health care workers may overlook the concerns about older people drinking. This can be the case because the side effects of drinking in older adults are mistaken for other conditions related to aging, for example, a problem with balance. It can be difficult to stop using alcohol, even if it’s causing alcohol-related dementia signs to occur. Anyone with an alcohol use disorder should seek professional medical help to prevent further complications while working toward addiction recovery.

  • It aims to stop the person drinking alcohol and make their health more stable.
  • Drinking alcohol with Aricept (donepezil), a medication for certain types of dementia, can prevent it from working properly and increase the risk of side effects.
  • Conversely, those who drink alcohol within the recommended guidelines are not advised to stop on the grounds of reducing the risk of dementia, although cutting back on alcohol consumption may bring other health benefits.
  • For example, if the person stops drinking alcohol, takes high doses of thiamine and starts eating a balanced diet.

People with early-stage dementia may also find it more difficult to make complex decisions and express themselves. If your healthcare provider has advised you to stop drinking entirely, it’s important to follow their advice. Older individuals can alcoholism cause dementia are more vulnerable to the short- and long-term effects of alcohol use on their brains. Alcohol affects short-term memory by slowing down how nerves communicate with each other in a part of the brain called the hippocampus.

FAQs around alcohol and Alzheimer’s

Sometimes, nutritional supplementation can help prevent the progression of this type of dementia. Additionally, stopping alcohol use is a key factor in preventing additional damage that causes worsening of alcoholic dementia. It can be dangerous to stop alcohol abruptly, and it’s safer to go through alcohol detoxification under medical supervision.

can alcoholism cause dementia

They’ll collect your full medical history and do some mental tests to determine the best course of action. Alzheimer’s disease has a similar effect on your brain, causing neuron death and brain shrinkage. At the current time there are no acceptable criteria to definitively define alcohol-related dementia. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025, drinking in moderation consists of no more than one or two drinks daily for females and males, respectively.

If you suspect you have this condition, reach out to a healthcare professional as soon as possible to discuss treatment options. The sooner you treat alcohol-related dementia, the better your chances of recovery. The first part of treatment for alcohol-related dementia aims to help you stop drinking alcohol. This can take several weeks, and you may need to do this under medical supervision. Coresh and a team from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine teamed up with the National Institute on Aging, using a different approach from the U.K. They searched the blood plasma of some 11,000 adults, 45 to 65 years old, for links between certain proteins and cognitive risk.

  • Someone who is drinking may also forget how much alcohol they have consumed, increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning.
  • A standard drink contains 14 grams, or 0.6 ounces (oz), of pure alcohol in the United States.
  • There are two main subtypes, including Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome, though experts may refer to them together as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
  • Sometimes this is a result of major life changes, such as the death of a spouse or other loved one, moving to a new home, or failing health.
  • Katie has always enjoyed a glass of wine to unwind a few times per week.

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