Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a degenerative brain disorder that can be potentially lethal. Know more on the causes, symptoms and treatments of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome here.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome or Wernicke's disease, named after Drs. Sergei Korsakoff and Carl Wernicke, is a common manifestation of two eponymous conditions, Korsakoff's syndrome and Wernicke's encephalopathy. Wernicke's encephalopathy and Korsakoff's amnesic syndrome represent the acute and chronic phase of this Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome respectively. Also called as wet brain or Korsakoff psychosis, this degenerative brain disorder, characterized by acute thiamine deficiency, is commonly seen among alcoholics and is often the debilitating side effect of chronic alcohol abuse, eating disorders, dietary deficiencies and malnourishment. The key symptoms of this syndrome include mental confusion, hypertension, anorexia and others. This neurological disorder not only leads to memory lapse but also affects the heart and vascular system. People suffering from this syndrome are more disoriented and confused than normal people and have trouble remembering things. Most cases of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome go under-diagnosed every year. However, timely intervention and care can help patients recover from this syndrome. To acquaint yourself more on the causes, symptoms and treatment of this neurological syndrome, read on.
Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a degenerative brain disorder primarily engendered due to thiamine deficiency in the body. Years of chronic alcohol abuse decelerates thiamine breakdown that depletes the body of Vitamin B1 and triggers off the syndrome.
  • Another key cause of this degenerative disorder is dietary deficiency. Heavy alcohol consumption quashes hunger and appetite and leads to severe malnourishment.
  • Binging on too much of raw freshwater fish, milled rice, raw shellfish, tea, coffee and betel nuts can exhaust thiamine levels and could also trigger the wet brain condition.
  • Prolonged vomiting induced due to pregnancy and even from chemotherapy can actuate Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome at times.
  • Higher levels of thyroid hormone in the body can be explained as another reason for this degenerative syndrome.
  • Long-term dialysis and prolonged diuretic therapy can also generate Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. 
  • One of the classic symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is confusion or muddiness, lapse of memory and difficulty in learning new information.
  • People suffering from this syndrome tend to “confabulate” or create stories they can’t remember.
  • Instability, weakness and poor coordination is another symptom of this syndrome.
  • Researchers have linked a genetic variation called APOE-e4 to Wernicke-Korsakoff in chronic alcoholics.
  • Amnesia or loss of memory, changes in personality, loss of appetite and insomnia are other common symptoms usually associated with the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. 
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is treatable given that the alcoholic consumption is stopped and treatment is properly administered without delay.
  • Since Wernicke's encephalopathy is primarily caused due to thiamine deficiency, individuals suffering from this syndrome should be treated with thiamin. It can be administered intravenously or transferred directly into the digestive system. Thiamin will prevent memory loss and boost better brain performance. However, people with chronic symptoms may not benefit much from this.
  • Patients down with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can benefit from drugs like donepezil and rivastigmine that are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Donepezil   and rivastigmine save the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from breaking down and can be used for patients who do not respond to thiamine.
  • Individuals suffering from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can benefit from conditioning too. It has been seen that training patients through positive rewards can help these dementia patients with better people recognition abilities in the longer run.

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