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Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome also known as WKS is a brain disorder type which is caused as a result of lack of vitamin B1 in the body. This syndrome is a combination of two conditions which usually occurs at the very same time. And in this condition, firstly, the Wernicke symptoms happen which is then followed with the korsakoff syndrome.

People who suffer from this syndrome first experience some bleeding in the bottom section of the brain which includes hypothalamus and thalamus. The bottom section of the brain is responsible for controlling the endocrine and the nervous system.

When the Wernicke’s symptoms decrease, the Korsakoff psychosis follows which is a result of some chronic brain damage. This syndrome affects those areas of the brain which control the memory. If the Wernicke’s disease is effectively treated, Korsakoff syndrome may cease to develop.

Risk Factors for Korsakoff syndrome

The risk factors associated with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome develop as a result of lifestyle and diet changes. The major risk factors associated with the development of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome include chronic alcoholism and malnourishment. Some of the other risk factors include-

  • Inability to afford good medical care & proper food
  • Kidney dialysis whereby the absorption of Vitamin B1 is reduced
  • Development of AIDS where the body tends do experience vitamin B1 deficiency

Causes of Korsakoff syndrome

One of the biggest risks for Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is alcoholism. And alcoholism is considered as a big cause because alcohol affects the diet of people along with preventing the absorption and storage of vitamin b1. The less common causes when it comes to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are the conditions which limit the nutritional absorption of vitamins. And the nutrient absorption is limited as a result of the following-

  • A person undergoing gastric bypass surgery, whereby due to his/her limited consumption of foods, the nutritional needs are unfulfilled.
  • A person suffering from colon cancer, whereby the pain is such immense, the person avoids eating
  • eating disorders

Symptoms of Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome

Prominent symptoms of Wernicke are:

  • drooping upper eyelid
  • double vision
  • loss of coordination between muscles
  • up & down or side-to-side movements of the eye
  • confused mental state

Wernicke symptoms are usually followed by Korsakoff’s syndrome. The following are the symptoms of Korsakoff’s syndrome:

  • amnesia for events which happens after one understands about the disorder
  • difficulty putting words into some meaningful context
  • difficulty in decoding the meaning of the information put up
  • experiencing hallucinations
  • confabulation or exaggerated storytelling

Diagnosing Korsakoff syndrome

The diagnosis of Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome is difficult. When it comes to the diagnosis, the doctor first checks for alcoholism. They may also check the liver for any kind of liver damage by asking the patient to undergo a liver test. This is usually followed with nutritional tests to identify if the individual is malnourished. In the nutritional tests, the albumin level is checked using serum albumin test, which is a protein present in the blood. Less protein content is a clear indication of kidney or liver damage. The doctor may ask the patient to undergo the serum vitamin B1 test whereby the vitamin B1 level in the blood is checked. This is done by identifying the enzyme activity whereby lower levels indicate B1 deficiency. The doctor may also ask the patient to undergo imaging tests like EKG, to identify the abnormalities, CT scan, to identify the brain lesions and MRI scan to see the brain changes.

Treatment for Korsakoff syndrome

The treatment for Korsakoff syndrome includes:

  • vitamin B1 given through IV
  • vitamin B1 given in the mouth
  • by putting the patient on a balanced diet
  • by treating the patient for alcoholism