Korsakoff's Syndrome

(Cerebral Beriberi; Korsakoff's Amnesic Syndrome)

Definition

Korsakoff's syndrome is a group of symptoms that affect memory, usually in patients with alcoholism. It usually occurs following Wernicke encephalopathy .
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Causes

Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a lack of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. This is usually associated with alcoholism, since a poor diet and alcohol can prevent the body from getting enough thiamine. Not everyone with alcoholism develops Korsakoff syndrome. A combination of genes and diet may play a role.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of developing Korsakoff's syndrome include:
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Malnutrition

Symptoms

Symptoms of Korsakoff syndrome may include:
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Learning difficulty
  • Communication problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty with walking and balance
The main symptom of Korsakoff's syndrome is severe memory problems. It is most obvious with recent events and new information. Often, people with this condition do not know the date or day. However, long-term memory and overall intelligence are not usually affected. To fill in the gaps in recent memory, patients tend to make up information that fits with the situation. This is called confabulation.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. Your mental function will be assessed. Testing your ability to learn new information most likely will show if you have this condition. If you are an alcoholic and/or have had Wernicke's syndrome, Korsakoff's syndrome is seriously considered as the cause of your memory problem.

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