Korsakoff syndrome is a condition related to vitamin B1 deficiency that mainly affects chronic alcoholics. It causes irreversible damage in certain areas of the brain.
Korsakoff syndrome is a condition usually caused by a chronic misuse of alcohol that leads to a loss of memory. It is considered a non-progressive form of dementia and is characterized by cognitive disorders including short-term memory loss and spatio-temporal disorientation. It occurs when a person is deficient in vitamin B1 and mainly affects those who suffer from chronic alcoholism and is thus often referred to as alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD), but can also occur in patients who suffer from severe malnutrition.
This deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine) for too long a period can cause lesions in the middle region of the brain that is responsible for memory. These brain lesions are usually irreversible and are responsible for Korsakoff's syndrome. However, its symptoms can be reversed at its earliest stage if the patient is given high doses of thiamine in time.
The symptoms of Korsakoff syndrome are variable from person to person, but memory loss is found in all patients. The other symptoms include:
- serious short-term memory problems
- fabrication (the person may invent facts and stories to make up for their loss of memory)
- disorientation in time and space
- false recognitions (the patient is mistaken about the identity of some people)
- inflammation of the nervous tissue
- disturbances of balance and walking/tremors
- repetitive behaviours and speech
Korsakoff syndrome is caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, which is largely linked to chronic alcoholism and nutritional deficiencies. It is often the result of poorly treated or untreated Gayet-Wernicke encephalopathy, but it can also occur independently.
Korsakoff syndrome cannot be cured and the brain damage is irreversible. It will therefore be impossible for the person to recover to their previous state. The patient will have to be cared for to receive an emergency vitamin B1 supplement and to maintain a balanced diet. They should also have support structured by different specialists - such as nutritionists, psychologists and alcohol specialists.