Wernicke-Korsakow syndrome

Wernicke’s encephalopathy (brain disease) is a disease of the central nervous system that is usually associated with chronic alcohol abuse and is ultimately caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. When combined with symptoms of Korsakow syndrome, it becomes Wernicke-Korsakow syndrome.

Wernicke’s encephalopathy primarily affects areas of the brain that have a strong need for vitamin B1. In principle, anyone can contract it – in Israel, several infants contracted it in 2003 from vitamin B1-free food. However, it most often affects alcoholics.

The lack of vitamin B1 disturbs the carbohydrate metabolism in the brain. As a result, water retention (edema) occurs, and later hemorrhage and the formation of small vessels in some parts of the brain (capillaries) – these parts of the brain are destroyed as a result.

Important symptoms in comparison, from both symptom complexes together arises the diagnosis Wernicke-Korsakow syndrome.

Wernicke’s encephalopathyKorsakow Syndrome
A “brain-organic psychosyndrome” with memory loss, psychosis, confusion and confabulations (the filling of memory gaps with fictitious occurrences), disorientation, and apathy and drowsiness with abnormal sleepiness (somnolence).Forgetting old memory contents (retrograde amnesia)
Gait and stance insecurityInability to remember new experiences (anterograde amnesia)
Eye movement disorders and
eye muscle paralysis, including double vision
Lack of drive
Speech disordersincreased fatigue and severe fatigability
Euphoria and strong emotional fluctuations

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