Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a serious brain disorder that can develop in people who drink alcohol excessively over time. Symptoms include blurred vision, rapid movement of the eyes, and difficulty walking.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a combination of two conditions: Wernicke syndrome and Korsakoff syndrome.

  • Wernicke syndrome is caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. Symptoms such as blurred vision may go away if a person stops drinking and takes thiamine supplements.
  • Korsakoff syndrome is caused by changes in the brain that result from long-term alcohol use. Symptoms include confusion and memory loss, especially of recent events, which often lead the person to make up events (confabulation) to fill the memory gaps. The effects of Korsakoff syndrome may be permanent.

Treatment for Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome includes replacement of thiamine, proper nutrition and body fluids (hydration), and avoiding alcohol use.

Last Updated: January 26, 2010

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.