The Link Between Alcohol Use and Early-Onset Dementia

These case-control studies, however, may not have found a significant association because they had too few subjects and thus lacked statistical power. This possibility was addressed in two reports from a meta-analysis (Graves et al. 1991; van Duijn and Hofman 1992) that pooled the data from four individual case-control studies. However, the researchers did not find significant results for low, moderate, or high alcohol consumption even with this larger sample. Graves and colleagues conducted another meta-analysis that included a fifth study, which had used a different definition of alcohol use, but they still did not find a significant association between alcohol use and AD.

can alcoholism cause dementia

Detailed assessment of cognitive impairments may be performed by a clinical neuropsychologist. Another can alcoholism cause dementia hypothesis is that thiamine deficiency is primarily responsible for the development of ARD.

Use and the Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease

Excessive alcohol use may put a person at risk of developing certain health problems relating to the brain. Though there are a number of dementia types — including Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form — progressive damage to the brain features in all of them. Case-control studies of alcohol use and AD compare people with AD with people without AD and determine whether alcohol consumption differs between the two groups. Studying factors that influence the risk of developing AD may lead to the identification of those at high risk for developing it, strategies for prevention or intervention, and clues to the cause of the disease.

Moderate drinking has been reported to have some beneficial vascular effects , which could possibly reduce the risk of AD. The nonsignificant association between alcohol use and risk of AD reported by most studies does not necessarily mean that alcohol has no effect. It may instead reflect a balance between the beneficial vascular effects of alcohol and its detrimental effects on the brain, and the relative weight of these two factors may differ within specific subgroups. A summary of 11 of these case-control studies showed that 9 of the studies found no significant relationship between alcohol use and AD, 1 found that alcohol use increased the risk, and 1 found that alcohol use decreased the risk of AD . Most of these studies examined drinking status of study participants rather than using more detailed measures of amount consumed.

Clinical awareness of connection between alcohol and dementia is paramount to providing the best patient care management

Thiamine is essential for brain health and a thiamine deficiency can lead to permanent brain damage. A study published in the journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment states that consuming one or two alcoholic drinks per day can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This research joins a growing body of work suggesting that moderate drinking may have positive mental effects. Population-based studies have reported conflicting results on the alcohol-dementia relationship. For example, some reports suggest that light-to-moderate alcohol use can reduce dementia risk as compared to those who have abstained from alcohol. In contrast, other studies report that alcohol use does not impact the risk of dementia.

can alcoholism cause dementia

Some of the genetic markers used for alcohol consumption are problematic as their associations with average volume of drinking and with heavy drinking occasions in overall light drinkers point in opposite directions (; see also the discussion following ). Furthermore, cohort studies in twins may contribute to identifying genetic variations . The Lancet review by Livingston et al. showed that the risks of heavy drinking and AUDs for dementia have been underestimated. The French hospital cohort study, indicating that AUDs represented the highest RR for dementia of all modifiable risk factors for dementia, determined that alcohol use needs to be taken into consideration by our health and social welfare systems .

The effects of alcohol abuse on the brain include severe brain damage.

Recent single photon emission CT study supported above findings by reporting hypometabolism in the frontal cortices, thalami and basal ganglia in ARD cases . A recent study examined more than thirty-million Europeans to identify the largest factors determining whether an individual develops Alzheimer’s or dementia. The study found that alcohol was the largest non-genetic risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. • A recent study examined millions of individuals to determine if there was a link between Alzheimer’s disease and alcohol consumption. In this study, half of people that abstain from alcohol have a history of alcohol dependency in their past, or a history of smoking.

  • The Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and early phase of ARD are fluctuating and dynamic in their cognitive manifestations.
  • Although the above factors adequately explain why alcohol abuse and dementia may be linked, the exact size and scale of the issue is not clear.
  • It is thought to develop in association with certain types of brain changes, including pathological protein buildup known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
  • Alcohol dementia, in general, is characterized by problems with memory, learning, and overall cognitive function.
  • WebMD does not endorse any product, service or treatment referred to on this page.
  • The two primary classification guidelines, the International Classification of Diseases, ICD-10 and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5 also differ in description of ARD.

Epidemiological studies show an association between long-term alcohol intoxication and dementia. Alcohol can damage the brain directly as a neurotoxin, or it can damage it indirectly by causing malnutrition, primarily a loss of thiamine . Alcohol use disorder is common in older persons, and alcohol-related dementia is under-diagnosed. Excessive drinking may cause brain damage and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This new study is another sobering reminder of how devastating alcoholism can be on people afflicted with this terrible disease. The treatment professionals inWashington State alcohol rehabknow firsthand the kind of damage alcohol can cause. We are standing by to help you regain your life and health before more damage can be inflicted on your mind and body.

Late-Onset Alcohol Abuse Can Be a Presenting Symptom of Dementia, Researchers Find

Using multivariable proportional hazards regression and linear mixed models, the risk of dementia and the rate of change over time in the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination were estimated. It’s important to note that most researchers and healthcare providers have found that alcohol consumed in moderation — one to two drinks for men and one for women — doesn’t typically affect memory. Older individuals are more vulnerable to the short- and long-term effects of alcohol use on their brains. The hippocampus plays a significant role in helping people form and maintain memories. When normal nerve activity slows down, short-term memory loss can occur. Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles.

  • Few analyses on the interaction of tobacco and alcohol use have been published, but one study (Brenner et al. 1993) did find that the association between smoking and AD varied by the hypertensive status of study participants.
  • Difficulties are most frequently detected on tasks assessing higher-order organization, planning, and cognitive flexibility .
  • The one clear way to prevent or treat alcohol-related dementia is to stop drinking as soon as possible.
  • Entry criteria for GEMS excluded individuals who would be unable, in the judgment of study staff, to complete the trial, including those with a known history of excessive alcohol use.
  • C. The following clinical features cast doubt on the diagnosis of alcohol-related dementia 1.
  • In most cases, determining the life expectancy of someone with alcohol-related dementia is also complicated by a history of heavy alcohol use, causing other alcohol-related problems that also shorten life expectancy.

The association between alcohol use and dementia remained significant across all age groups in the study, and across all different types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The majority of studies do not assess lifetime drinking trajectories. The organization says, “Excessive alcohol consumption over a lengthy time period can lead to brain damage, and may increase your risk of developing dementia. However, drinking alcohol in moderation has not been conclusively linked to an increased dementia risk, nor has it been shown to offer significant protection against developing dementia. Another important consideration for neuropathology of ARD involves WE and KS. This leads to a hypothesis that ARD is primarily due to thiamine deficiency.

Some studies highlighted that the selection processes used in cohort studies may lead to underestimation of the associations between alcohol use and cognitive impairment or dementia . Second, most of the studies on alcohol use and cognitive decline/dementia concerned older subjects (; Table 1). Therefore, people with heavier alcohol use may have been excluded from these studies as they may have been more likely to have dementia at baseline or may have died prior to or before the end of the study because of other alcohol-attributable causes of death . In particular, there was an observed increase in the risk of an alcohol-attributable death at lower levels of use, such as 30 g of pure alcohol per day, and risk accelerated exponentially as average use increased . Reviews or meta-analyses were included if they described the systematic search process with listed databases and search terms.

  • My interests lie in public health awareness and medical communication.
  • The incidence and prevalence of ARD varies across studies as there are no defined diagnostic criteria.
  • Other cardiovascular diseases were ischaemic heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, atrial fibrillation, and heart failure.
  • It is not clear whether the effect of hypertension reflects a physiological interaction of hypertension with smoking, drinking, and AD.
  • Other types of alcohol-related dementia such as Wernicke encephalopathy cause the destruction of certain areas of the brain, where changes in memory, primarily a loss of short-term memory, are the main symptom.

It’s characterized by eye movement problems, discoordination and confusion. If Wernicke’s encephalopathy is not reversed, it leads to a more permanent condition called Korsakoff syndrome. Behaviors can be unpredictable and uninhibited, and communication is difficult and could become impossible. The early stages of any form of dementia tend to be subtle and difficult to notice. People are generally able to live independently during theearly stages of dementia, but subtle memory problems, such as losing items frequently, may occur. People with early-stage dementia may also find it more difficult to make complex decisions and express themselves.

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