Alcoholism And Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome: Diagnosis & Treatment

Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS), also known as Korsakoff’s psychosis, wet brain and alcoholic encephalopathy is a combination of Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s syndrome. It is a display of an insufficiency of vitamin B1, beriberi, Wernicke’s encephalopathy, and Korsakoff’s psychosis.

These disorders may be noticeable simultaneously or independently. WKS usually develops secondary to alcohol abuse; although there are a host of other etiological factors as well. Generally speaking, it results in vision changes, impaired memory and ataxia.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Alcohol Abuse

WKS is by and large seen in alcoholics, and only 20 % cases are identified before death. Failure of diagnosis leads to death in 20 % of the cases, whilst 75 % are left with permanent damage and impairment to the brain. Of those affected, 25 % need longstanding institutionalization to get effectual care.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a kind of brain disorder caused by an insufficiency of vitamin B1. WKS are essentially two separate conditions which tend to occur at the same time.

Symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy become apparent first. There will be bleeding in the lower sections of the brain, including the thalamus and hypothalamus. Bleeding results in brain damage which is manifested as symptoms involving coordination, vision and balance.

Manifestations of Korsakoff psychosis tend to trail as Wernicke’s symptoms diminish. If Wernicke’s disease is effectively and quickly managed, then, Korsakoff syndrome may not develop. Korsakoff psychosis develops due to chronic brain damage. Korsakoff syndrome influences those areas of the brain which monitor memory.

Diagnosis And Treatment For Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome

In order to diagnose WKS, your health care provider will look for clinical signs pointing towards vitamin B1 insufficiency. He will order a battery of investigations – blood tests to assess your thiamine level and your overall nutritional status, as well as, tests to assess liver function.

Chronic alcoholism impairs the liver, raising the liver enzymes. He will also check your heart rate, reflexes, eye movements, blood pressure, and body temperature.

After the diagnosis has been made, your doctor will give you vitamin B1 intravenously.

Prompt treatment and management can reverse some of the neurological symptoms.

Maintaining sufficient levels of vitamin B1 is a must. To do this, you need to abstain from alcohol and eat a balanced diet. WKS management needs to be started immediately. Early treatment helps slow down or stop disease progression. Treatment will also reverse non-permanent brain impairment.

Treatment involves hospitalization. At the hospital, you will be supervised to make sure that digestive system is absorbing food correctly. Vitamin B1 supplements will be given intravenously. Oral vitamin B1 is necessary for sustained maintenance after the primary treatment. Eating a well-balanced diet is very crucial to recovery. Also, treatment for alcoholism is mandatory; i.e. help with withdrawal and support in quitting.

Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome Prognosis

The prognosis for WKS is based up on how far the disease has progressed. Receiving timely treatment before irreparable impairment has occurred improves the outlook.

Mortality rates are high if the condition is neglected. Those who are given prompt treatment see an improvement in eye problems and confusion and orientation.

To carry on recovery of memory and mental function, you need to steer clear of alcohol. A well balanced diet is a must; also you need to include foods packed with vitamin B1, such as, spinach, rice, lean pork, peas, whole wheat, oranges, and milk.