What Is the Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?

The Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a medical issue that can sometimes occur in those who drink heavily and often. If you have been a lifelong drinker and are beginning to experience issues like those caused by this syndrome, it is time to seek treatment. Call 800-839-1686 now to find a rehab center that can help you put an end to your drinking.

The Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

According to the National Library of Medicine, “The Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome are different conditions that often occur together.” Both of these medical issues occur as the result of a lack of vitamin B1, which can lead to brain damage. This is common in individuals who drink often and in large amounts.

The Wernicke encephalopathy

  • An acute syndrome that can be deadly, a person often experiences eye problems, dementia, and muscle coordination issues as a result of this disorder. The lack of vitamin B1 causes severe problems for the brain and body.
  • Symptoms include:
    • Confusion
    • Loss of muscle coordination
    • Tremors
    • Vision problems (double vision, blurry vision)
    • Abnormal movements of the yes
    • Drooping of the eyelids

The Korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Tremors and hallucinations are symptoms of the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

  • Since this disorder is caused by the same vitamin deficiency, it often occurs with the Wernicke encephalopathy, and in many cases, as a result of it. The way the mind works is changed by the Wernicke encephalopathy, leading to memory loss and other issues.
  • Symptoms include:
    • An inability to form new memories
    • Memory loss (that can range from mild to severe)
    • Making up stories
    • Hallucinating

When Does This Disorder Occur?

For most heavy drinkers, the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome often brings about alcohol withdrawal. It is important for patients suffering from withdrawal to be tested for the presence of this dangerous syndrome, especially if they

  • Have been drinking for a long time (10 years or more)
  • Have experienced withdrawal from alcohol before
  • Are beginning to experience or have already gone through delirium tremens, “a severe form of alcohol withdrawal” that causes hallucinations and seizures (NLM)

If a person has abnormal eye movements or problems, an abnormal heart rate, and/or fever, it is very likely they are suffering from this disorder. These are all physical signs your doctor will be looking for during alcohol withdrawal.

Can the Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Be Treated?

The safest thing for someone who is suffering from this syndrome to do is to stop drinking immediately. Continuing to do so could only lead to further problems, including more brain damage. A person should also make sure to change their diet and eat as nutritionally as possible. This can begin to restore the vitamin B1 deficiency in the body. However, if the individual still doesn’t stop drinking, a healthier diet cannot make as much of a difference.

An individual experiencing acute issues with Wernicke-Korsakoff should seek medical treatment as well. This is because the symptoms themselves can be dangerous, and the person will also likely undergo alcohol withdrawal, so they will need proper care. Delirium tremens is common in this instance and is a “medical emergency” (NLM). The proper treatment in a rehab center is necessary, usually in one that provides 24-hour care.

Treatment can help to slow or stop the results of this syndrome. However, some of the results cannot be fully reversed, which is why it is important to seek help as soon as possible if you think you might have the syndrome.

How Does Frequent Alcohol Abuse Affect Your Health?

Can Alcoholics Anonymous Help Treat This Syndrome?

Unfortunately, AA is not itself a treatment program, and because the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a medical issue, it will not be able to treat it. You will still need medical care, but you can attend AA as a supplemental option. You will likely need addiction treatment for your alcohol use disorder, and AA can be a part of this.

In addition, the program will probably be able to help you cope with the symptoms of this syndrome. You will meet others who understand it and possibly who have gone through it themselves.

Seek Treatment for Alcoholism and Its Effects Today

If you are suffering from any of the issues listed above, it is important to seek help immediately. Your alcohol use is causing dangerous effects, and you will likely need to put an end to it. But you don’t have to do this alone. Call 800-839-1686 now to find the best rehab centers available for your recovery.

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