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Korsakoff's Syndrome

Symptoms Of Korsakoff's Syndrome, Why Alcoholism Can Lead To Korsakoff's, Diagnosis

Korsakoff's syndrome is a memory disorder which is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1, also called thiamine. In the United States, the most common cause of such a deficiency is alcoholism. Other conditions which cause thiamine deficiency occur quite rarely, but can be seen in patients undergoing dialysis (a procedure during which the individual's blood circulates outside of the body, is mechanically cleansed, and then circulated back into the body), pregnant women with a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (a condition of extreme morning sickness, during which the woman vomits up nearly all fluid and food intake), and patients after surgery who are given vitamin-free fluids for a prolonged period of time. In developing countries, people whose main source of food is polished rice (rice with the more nutritious outer husk removed) may suffer from thiamine deficiency.

An associated disorder, Wernicke's syndrome, often precedes Korsakoff's syndrome. In fact, they so often occur together that the spectrum of symptoms produced during the course of the two diseases is frequently referred to as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The main symptoms of Wernicke's syndrome include ataxia (difficulty in walking and maintaining balance), paralysis of some of the muscles responsible for movement of the eyes, and confusion. Untreated Wernicke's Syndrome will lead to coma and then death.

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