What is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome?
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is a neurological disorder. Wernicke's Encephalopathy and Korsakoff's Psychosis are the acute and chronic phases, respectively, of the same disease. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a combination of
Korsakoff's syndrome which constitutes confusion, aphonia and confabulation and Wernicke's encephalopathy which is nystagmus, opthalmoplegia, coma and, if untreated, death. It is also known as cerebral beriberi, which is beriberi (thiamine deficiency disease) in the brain. This results from severe acute deficiency of thiamine superimposed on a chronic deficiency. Usually found in malnourished chronic alcoholics.
Korsakoff's syndrome, with symptoms of severe anterograde and retrograde amnesia, is caused by damage to mammillary bodies and other brain regions due to deficiency of thiamine. This is most often caused by chronic alcoholism, though other conditions including severe malnutrition, have been known to cause it. An association of Gayet-Wernicke and Korsakoff' syndromes frequently observed in alcoholic, nutritionally deficient patients with the Gayet-Wernicke syndrome. Patients develop symptoms of the Korsakoff syndrome, mainly amnesia with a tendency to confabulate with or without polyneuropathy.