Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome definition, causes, symptoms | All ur benefit

Written by tanaypatel5212

May 30, 2021

Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome

So many people search about Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome on the internet nowadays. If you also searching for it you are in the right place. Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome is a condition where two separate diseases named Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff disease occur at the same time in person.

Definition of Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome is a condition developed due to deficiency of Vitamin B1 (thiamin). Here two different conditions are present at the same time that is why it is defined as a syndrome rather than a disease.

These two conditions are

  1. Wernicke encephalopathy
  2. Korsakoff syndrome.

Wernicke encephalopathy

Wernicke encephalopathy mainly develops due to deficiency of Vitamin B1 or thiamin. It is totally reversible by taking Vitamin B1 supplements in the diet.

Symptoms of Wernicke encephalopathy

  • Confusion
  • Lack of Concentration
  • Lack of physical balance
  • Involuntary movement of eyeballs

Korsakoff Syndrom

In severe Wernicke encephalopathy brain, cells get damaged and turn into Korsakoff syndrome. It is irreversible

Symptoms of Korsakoff syndrome

  • Memory Loss
  • Apathy

Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrom Tries

ophthalmoplegia, ataxia, and confusion are classical tried of Wernicke Encephalopathy.

Video courtesy: MadMedicine! – Education(YouTube)

Importance of Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 is also known as thiamin, it plays a major role in our body. We know that every cell of the body requires energy. Important organs require more energy.

As we all know the brain is the most important organ of the body and it requires more energy than all organs. Vitamin B1 or thiamin helps us to convert food into energy and deficiency of vitamin B1 or thiamin causes a lack of energy supply to the brain.

Lack of energy supply to brain damages neurons/ Nerve cells in case of thiamin deficiency

Also, vitamin B1 helps in the production of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters help with signal transduction in the brain.

If the production of neurotransmitter does not do properly it can cause

  • Weak memory
  • Difficulty in balancing the body
  • Vison problems etc.

How much time will it take to convert thiamine deficiency into Wernicke encephalopathy?

The human body can store 30–50 mg of thiamine, and thiamine consumption is only about 2 mg per day.

Dietary thiamine requirement is 0.5 mg for every 1000 kcal consumed. So Normally takes about 4–6 weeks to develop thiamine deficiency.

What are the causes for Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome

There are so many causes which can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B1, condition like these can result in Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome. The most common causes are;

  • Alcoholism is the most common cause of this condition
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Gastric cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Any kind of condition which causes malabsorption
  • Eating disorders like Anorexia.

Symptoms of Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome

  • Diplopia or double vision:- Objects are seen double
  • Loss of muscle coordination:- Difficulty in complex movements like walking, running
  • Memory loss:- Forgetfulness
  • Confused mental stage:- Difficulty in communication, understanding situation, lack of concentration, delay in understanding meaning or information.
  • Ptosis:- drooping of eyelids
  • Amnesia:- short term memory loss or easily forget recent events
  • Difficulty in understanding information
  • Exaggerated storytelling:- Person with this condition exaggeratedly tells everything like if he is injured by a pin he tells he got injured by a knife etc. In simple small things tells exaggeratedly.
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty in putting a word in context:- Here person feels difficulty in putting words in context, as for example If he wants to tell In search of gold we lost a diamond, but in this condition he tells in gold search loss, we diamond.

How to diagnose the Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrom

Diagnosis of this condition is somehow difficult as a person with Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome has a confused mental state. It makes it difficult in communicating with a doctor with a patient.

Also due to memory loss and other symptoms like exaggerated storytelling doctors have to confirm symptoms with patients near ones like family members and friends. But the doctor may be done below things for diagnosis

Check signs for alcoholism

The doctor can go with a liver function test and check for damage to the liver for determining alcoholism, as liver damage is common in a person who consumes more alcohol.

Liver damage leads to rising in liver enzymes which can determine in liver function tests.

Physical signs of alcoholism are

  • Increased heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • A rise in body temperature
  • Reflexes

These physical signs can be seen in people with chronic alcoholism. Along with this, all signs doctor check your alcohol levels first in your body for confirmation.

Checking signs for nutritional deficiency

The doctor may do tests to find out any signs of nutritional deficiency of Vitamin B1 inpatient. This includes tests that determine the level of  Thiamin or Vitamin B1 in the patient blood.

Serum albumin test:

This helps to determine serum albumin in the blood, low levels of serum albumin signify deficiency and kidney and liver problems.

Serum Vitamin B1 test:

This test is done to determine Vitamin B1 level in the body, it includes enzyme activities in red blood cells. Low enzyme activities signify a low level of vitamin B1 or thiamin.

Other tests for Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome

Other tests may include

  • Electrocardiogram
  • MRI( Magnetic resonance imagining)
  • CT scan (Computed tomography)
  • Neuropsychological tests for determining other brains related deficiency and severity of the condition

These tests can help to confirm any damage to brain cells or neurons which helps in the diagnosis and severity of the condition.

Treatment of Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome

Treatment should immediately start after diagnosis as soon as possible. If the condition is in starting stage of a mild state we can treat it.

But if it is severe in nature and damage is much more to brain cells we can not make it reverse.

Treatment in early stage

In the early stage if we can fulfill the requirement we can manage it with enough B1 supplements.

  • Vitamin B1 injection is given intravenously in hand.
  • Also, we can give Vitamin B1 via the oral route.
  • Maintaining a diet by food rich in Vitamin B1
  • Treating alcoholism
  • Vitamin B1 supplements.

In some cases treatment of Vitamin B1 leads to negative reactions, People with chronic alcohol consumption are more prone to it.

  • It can cause alcohol withdrawal
  • Profuse sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swing
  • Hallucination
  • Mood swing, etc.

Treatment is only possible in mild cases and early stages. In severe cases with Korsakoff syndrome damage to the brain is irreversible and we can not treat damaged cells.

How to prevent Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome

We always say that prevention is better than cure. So we can prevent this condition by maintaining our diet and avoid bad habits like alcoholism.

Food for Vitamin B1
Video courtesy: What’s up dude (YouTube)

Foods for prevention

  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Lean Pork
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Oranges

These all food are the best sources of Vitamin B1. We can eat to avoid deficiency of Vitamin B1 and thus we can prevent this condition.


Time to end an article, we hope this article will help you to clear doubts regarding this condition. Share this informative article with your friend circle and help them to gain information about it.

Also if you have any doubt regarding it let us know in the comments section and also suggest to us new topics you want to know.

Ask your question regarding Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome in the comments section our team will try to solve your queries regarding it.

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