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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome – due to alcoholism

Alcohol abuse is one of the most serious problems in public health and the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is one of the gravest consequences of alcoholism.

The term Wernicke-Korsakoff relates to two conditions: Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s syndrome. As these two conditions are so closely related the diagnosis is frequently referred to as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Wernicke's disease is associated with nutritional deficiency, especially due to alcoholism. Alcohol can damage the lining of the stomach, which affects the absorption of vitamins, leading to thiamine deficiency. Korsakoff's psychosis is a mental disorder in which retentive memory is hugely impaired in an otherwise responsive patient. This disorder is also associated with alcoholism and malnutrition.

The cause of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a deficiency of thiamine or vitamin B1. Thiamine helps brain cells produce energy from sugar. When levels fall too low, brain cells cannot generate enough energy to function properly. Individuals with poor nutrition for any reason are at risk for this disorder. The most common social factor associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is chronic alcohol abuse, leading to decreased absorption and utilization of thiamine.

It is important to note that there are nonalcoholic causes of thiamine deficiency, which can also produce Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. These include individuals with malnutrition, starvation, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, prisoners of war, and terminal malignancies.

Wernicke – Korsakoff syndrome: main clinical features
* ophthalmoplegia
* nystagmus
* ataxia
* confusional state
* amnestic disorder
* peripheral neuropathy

Mortality usually occurs secondary to infections and hepatic failure, but some deaths are attributable to defects of prolonged thiamine deficiency. The mortality rate is 10% to 15% in severe cases.

The most effective prevention of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is to avoid the excessive intake of alcohol.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome – due to alcoholism

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