Korsakoff's syndrome is a group of symptoms that affect memory, usually in patients with alcoholism. It often occurs following Wernicke encephalopathy.
Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a lack of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. This is also always associated with alcoholism, since a poor diet and alcohol can prevent the body from getting enough thiamine.
Not everyone with alcoholism develops Korsakoff syndrome. A combination of genes and diet may play a role.
Factors that increase your chance of developing Korsakoff's syndrome include:
Symptoms of Korsakoff syndrome may include:
The main symptom of Korsakoff's syndrome is severe memory problems. It is most obvious with recent events and new information. Often, people with this condition do not know the date or day. However, long-term memory and overall intelligence are not usually affected. To fill in the gaps in recent memory, patients tend to make up information that fits with the situation. This is called confabulation.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. Your mental function will be assessed. Testing your ability to learn new information most likely will show if you have this condition. If you are an alcoholic and/or have had Wernicke's syndrome, Korsakoff's syndrome is seriously considered as the cause of your memory problem.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
You may be referred to an alcohol rehabilitation facility if alcoholism is the cause of your condition.
Korsakoff syndrome often occurs following Wernicke encephalopathy. To reduce your risk:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Alcoholics Anonymous Canada
Dietitians of Canada
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Last reviewed March 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.