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What is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?

  • - Dementia News
  • Feb 19, 2012
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  • Viewed: 2010
Tags: | alcoholic encephalopathy | anterograde amnesia | encephalopathy-alcoholic | korsakoff psychosis |

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a brain condition that is caused by a thiamine deficiency. There is another condition that should not get confused with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and that is Wernicke’s encephalopathy. There is also a condition called Korsakoff syndrome also known as Korsakoff psychosis. These are different conditions which are caused by a lack of Vitamin B1 (thiamine).

Vitamin B1 deficiency is very common in people who suffer from alcoholism, or in individuals who suffer from mal-absorption; mal-absorption is a condition which the gut doesn’t absorb the food properly.

Korsakoff syndrome and Korsakoff psychosis develops when the Wernicke’s symptoms disappear. Korsakoff syndrome and Korsakoff psychosis are different phases of the same disorder. Wernicke’s encephalopathy leads to brain damage in the lower parts of the brain, called the hypothalamus and the thalamus. Korsakoff psychosis causes memory problems due to the parts of the brain affected are associated with memory.

Symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy

Wernicke’s encephalopathy is the acute form of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The symptoms include:

Abnormal eye movements
Double vision
Drooping eyelid
Changes in vision
Leg tremors
Loss of muscle management

Neurological disorder marked by severe amnesia despite clear perception and full consciousness, resulting from chronic alcoholism, head injury, brain illness, or thiamin deficiency. Persons with the syndrome typically cannot remember events in the recent or even immediate past; some retain memories only a few seconds. Longer periods - up to 20 years - may also be forgotten. Confabulation (recounting detailed, convincing “memories” of events that never happened) sometimes coexists with the syndrome, which may be transient or chronic.
Symptoms of Korsakoff syndrome

Korsakoff syndrome is the chronic form of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The symptoms include:

Hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there)
Inability to make new memories
Loss of memory
Confabulation (making up stories)

Diagnosis for Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Diagnosis for Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is accomplished by certain blood and urine tests. The tests include:

Serum albumin  -  This is a plasma protein.
Serum Vitamin B1level  -  This test will measure the amount of thiamin in the blood.
Transketolase level  -  This test measures the enzyme Transketolase in the red blood cells. Transketolase levels are low in people who have a thiamine deficiency.
Blood tests for liver enzymes and alcohol levels  -  These tests are done in people who have a history of alcohol abuse.

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