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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Other Names for this Disease
  • Alcohol induced encephalopathy
  • Korsakoff's amnesic syndrome
  • Transketolase defect
  • Wernicke's encephalopathy
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How might Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome be treated?

The goals of treatment are to control symptoms as much as possible and to prevent progression of the disorder. Some people may need to be hospitalization initially to control the symptoms.[1]

Treatment involves replacement of thiamine and providing proper nutrition and hydration.[2][3] Intravenous thiamine is the treatment of choice. After the initial dose, daily doses of thiamine are usually recommended. Supplementation of electrolytes, particularly magnesium and potassium (often low in people with alcoholism), may be required in addition to thiamine. In those who are chronically malnourished, the remainder of the B vitamins also should be supplemented. Supplementation can be tapered as the patient resumes normal intake and shows improvement.[3]

Because long-term alcohol use is the most common cause for Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, avoiding alcohol provides the best chance for recovery. Referral to an alcohol recovery program should be part of the treatment regimen.[3]
Due to difficulties with movement, patients should be provided with assistance when walking during the initial phase of treatment. Patients may require physical therapy to assist with movement. Walking difficulties may be permanent, depending on the severity at initial presentation and the timeliness of therapy.[3]
Last updated: 10/20/2011

  1. Dugdale DC. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. MedlinePlus. February 2010; Accessed 10/20/2011.
  2. NINDS Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). February 14, 2007; Accessed 10/20/2011.
  3. Xiong GL. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. eMedicine Journal. September 2011; Accessed 10/20/2011.

Clinical Trials & Research for this Disease

  • The Centers for Mendelian Genomics program is working to discover the causes of rare genetic disorders. For more information about applying to the research study, please visit their website.