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Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a degenerative disease of the brain in adults. It occurs in the presence of vitamin B1 deficiency. It was first observed in alcoholics, in whom it also occurs most frequently. Other causes may include chronic bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease.
Vitamin B1 deficiency interferes with 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 subsequently destroyed as a result.
Classically, three main symptoms are found:
Treatment is by administration of high doses of thiamine, in emergencies also intravenously. Regular intake of vitamin B1 can prevent the disease. According to recent studies, taking vitamin B1 can reduce cravings for alcohol.
Wernicke-Korsakow syndrome is a combination of Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakow syndrome.
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