Our Health Library information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Please be advised that this information is made available to assist our patients to learn more about their health. Our providers may not see and/or treat all topics found herein.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a serious brain disorder that can develop in people who drink alcohol excessively over time. Symptoms include blurred vision, rapid movement of the eyes, and difficulty walking.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a combination of two conditions: Wernicke syndrome and Korsakoff syndrome.

  • Wernicke syndrome is caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. Symptoms such as blurred vision may go away if a person stops drinking and takes thiamine supplements.
  • Korsakoff syndrome is caused by changes in the brain that result from long-term alcohol use. Symptoms include confusion and memory loss, especially of recent events, which often lead the person to make up events (confabulation) to fill the memory gaps. The effects of Korsakoff syndrome may be permanent.

Treatment for Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome includes replacement of thiamine, proper nutrition and body fluids (hydration), and avoiding alcohol use.

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