Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome - Overview
Korsakoff psychosis; Alcoholic encephalopathy; Encephalopathy - alcoholic; Wernicke's disease
Definition of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome:
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a brain disorder due to thiamine deficiency.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
Wernicke's encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome are different conditions that are both due to brain damage caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine).
A lack of vitamin B1 is common in people with alcoholism. It is also common in persons whose bodies do not absorb food properly (malabsorption), such as sometimes occurs after obesity surgery.
Korsakoff syndrome, or Korsakoff psychosis, tends to develop as Wernicke's symptoms go away. Wernicke's encephalopathy causes brain damage in lower parts of the brain called the thalamus and hypothalamus. Korsakoff psychosis results from damage to areas of the brain involved with memory.
- Reviewed last on: 2/6/2010
- David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Brust JCM. Nutrition and alcohol-related neurologic disorders. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 443.
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