What is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?

When someone struggles with alcohol, they are running the risk of developing different health concerns. One of those is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. This is a condition that is characterized by memory issues due to a vitamin B1 or thiamine deficiency. Those with an alcohol use disorder or malnutrition are at risk of developing this condition, which requires immediate medical intervention. There is no known cure. However, medical professionals can implement a treatment regimen to help manage symptoms and prevent the progression of this condition.

Defining Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS) is a life-threatening condition if left untreated. WKS is two different conditions occurring simultaneously. Wernicke encephalopathy is the acute stage in which an individual may experience confusion, involuntary movement (ataxia), muscle loss, and vision changes. Korsakoff syndrome is the chronic stage of the condition.

It is characterized by severe memory loss and the inability to create and form new memories. Severe vitamin B1, also known as Thiamine, deficiency can lead to WKS which is incurable and can be fatal. Thiamine is a vitamin found naturally in different foods and is essential for brain functionality.

Signs of the Condition

Signs of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome can be obvious and when noticed, individuals need to seek immediate medical intervention. This medical care can help to prevent further decline, and help to ensure safety. WKS is a life-threatening condition, and if left untreated can lead to death. Signs and symptoms of WKS include:

  • Loss of coordination or balance
  • Unsteady gait
  • Hypothermia
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Double vision
  • Muscle coordination issues
  • Low blood pressure
  • Tachycardia

These symptoms, if left untreated, can become life-threatening. Those who struggle with alcohol and exhibit symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome should receive medical treatment as soon as possible.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome and Life Expectancy

Medical intervention is crucial in preventing a short life expectancy in those who have WKS. The prognosis of this condition is based on the severity of the symptoms and a prompt diagnosis. Receiving proper medical care in a timely fashion can help reverse some of the symptoms and prevent some complications due to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. If the symptoms of this condition are left untreated, individuals run the risk of disability or even death.

Risk Factors

Alcohol abuse is a main risk factor for WKS. It is the leading cause of the condition. Those who struggle with chronic and severe alcohol use disorders tend to have poor diets. Consequently, this leads to a lack of essential vitamins, such as Thiamine.

Thiamine converts sugar into energy. When it is lacking, the brain does not have enough energy to function properly. Alcohol makes it difficult for the body to absorb and store Thiamine, as well as use it for essential functions throughout the body. 

Is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Reversible?

WKS is an incurable condition. However, prompt medical intervention can help to reverse some of the symptoms associated with this condition. Eye problems and confusion can slow or reverse with proper medical care. In addition, medical intervention can prevent Wernicke encephalopathy from progressing to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Healthcare providers can discuss treatment plans tailored to individual needs with those who have a WKS diagnosis. 

Alcohol Withdrawal

Struggling with alcohol is a life-altering condition. Professional medical detox is highly recommended to prevent dangerous and life-threatening complications. Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous, and sometimes fatal. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Lack of coordination
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

These along with other symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can lead to severe impacts on an individual’s life. Having proper medical care throughout the process can help to prevent these impacts and complications. Proper care to overcome alcohol addiction can make a difference in the outcome. Detox provides a safe and healing environment to begin a recovery process. This process can include peer support and therapies to help implement new and useful coping skills.

Therapy for alcohol use disorders can include traditional and proven forms of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy. However, equine therapy has become increasingly popular in the treatment of substance use disorders like alcohol addiction. Struggling with alcohol is a prison. Having proper care to overcome it can lead to a newfound sense of freedom that can create a space for a happy and healthy life moving forward. 

Start Recovery Today

Alcohol abuse and addiction is something that affects the lives of a large number of individuals throughout the country. The impacts can be severe and life-altering, up to and including death. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a common condition that may occur as a result of alcohol abuse. Getting help as soon as possible to aid in overcoming alcohol abuse and addiction is crucial.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol, we can help. At Spirit Mountain, we offer tailored care for individuals who have found themselves struggling to find a way out. Our professional staff can help guide you through the beginning stages of healing and learning to live without the substance.

Call us today and begin a journey to a new way of life.

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