Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome-Symptoms,Treatment


The first few symtoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are physical and are known as ‘Wernickes encephalopathy’. This can be likened to a person appearing drunk, with disorientated way of walking, confusion and abnormal eye movements. Dementia and psychosis are other symptoms. People who are suffering from Wernicke-Korsakoff may confabulate (state imaginary things to seem real) and also appear malnourished. Complications can be in the form of difficulties with interpersonal interactions, major or complete loss of cognitive skills, permanent loss of memory leading to skewed personal life and professional relationships.

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Wernicke-Korsakoff Treatment

Once the syndrome is diagnosed, the patient has to be admitted in the hospital to control the symptoms. Thamine replacement can improve the symptoms especially the ones that seem drunken, like confusion, disorientation, eye movement and vision problems. But it cannot help in improving memory loss and cognitive abilities. One has to be totally of alcohol and eat proper diet to be positively influenced by the treatment. If untreated, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can cause death.

Information and causes of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is due to loss of particular brain functions that happen due to loss or lack of Vitamin B1 or Thiamine. This is an eseential vitamin that nourishes the brain and also helps the body make energy from carbohydrate foods. It also helps in making the muscles function properly and is also good for the heart and nervous system. Thiamine is found in lean meats, whole grains, pasta, dried beans, fortified cereals, fish and soya beans.
The main cause of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is long-term alcohol abuse, that can lead to poor absorption of thiamine. The deficiency of thiamine is also called ‘Beri Beri’. This vitamin deficiency can also happen due to major malnutrition, eating disorders and continual vomiting.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is most common in people aged over 45 and affects more men than women.
As with many health problems, following a healthy lifestyle that includes drinking alcohol only within safe recommended amounts (up to three to four units a day for men, and two to three units a day for women) and eating a healthy, balanced diet means alcohol-related and vitamin B1 deficiency-related health problems, such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, can be avoided. At times, the mental disorder can also be caused due to renal dialysis, thyrotoxicosis, cancer, rapid weight loss and bowel obstruction.

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