korsakoff syndrome

Can you guess what korsakoff syndrome is by looking at this picture. Can you relate something to this picture and the topic?  Have you ever came across this term? Ok if not don’t worry, I will tell you what korsakoff syndrome is.


Korsakoff syndrome, it is a chronic memory disorder which is caused by thiamine (vitamin B-1). It is mostly caused because of alcohol misuse, but not only alcohol misuse there are also other causes.

Thiamine helps brain sugar to produce energy from sugar. In case the energy level falls too low the brain cells cannot produce enough energy to function properly. This syndrome is mostly caused by alcohol misuse, it can also be associated with aids, cancer that spread throughout the body. It is also common in people which cannot absorb food properly (malabsorption).

Korsakoff syndrome is not only about alcohol misuse, through heavy drinking it may lead to chronic thinking and cognitive decline. Alcohol misuse may lead to brain damage through

  • Biological stress of intoxication and withdraw
  • toxic effects of alcohol on brain cells
  • It leads to cerebrovascular disease

Wernicke encephalopathy: it is an acute brain reaction to severe lack of thiamine. This is a medical emergency which cause life threatening brain disruption. Abnormal involuntary eye movement happens. The chronic memory loss of korsakoff syndrome will follow an episode of Wernicke encephalopathy.  So the chronic disorder is sometimes known as Wernicke korsakoff syndrome. But it is not that people who have korsakoff syndrome will have Wernicke encephalopathy. It happens in some cases.

Scientist do not exactly know how people are affected by korsakoff syndrome. They don’t know this damage the brain. Researchers have found that several genetic variation that may cause korsakoff syndrome. Poor nutrition will also lead risk.

Korsakoff syndrome is not only associated with alcohol misuse. It can include anorexia, fasting, starvation, uncontrolled vomiting, chronic infection which spreads throughout the body.


Korsakoff syndrome causes:

  • It causes problems in learning new information.
  • The difficulty to remember recent events and long term memory gaps.
  • Confused mental state
  • They have up and down or side to side eye movements.
  • They have double vision.

They may also have following symptoms:

  • Hallucination
  • Difficulty in speaking and forming words
  • Difficulty in understanding


It is a clinical diagnose and there is no specific laboratory to confirm this person has this syndrome. The symptoms is hard to find because it may related with other common condition also. It is recommended that if people comes with alcohol related condition should be professionally screened for memory loss and cognitive change. The questions will be related to recent memory. If the person has impairment they will be given cognitive workup.

The other test which are taken are:


The doctor may also take neuropsychological test to determine the severity of mental deficiencies.


  • Take oral supplement of thiamine and other vitamin under doctor’s supervision.
  • some are advised to thiamine injection


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