Korsakoff Syndrome

Korsakoff Syndrome

(Cerebral Beriberi; Korsakoff Amnesic Syndrome)

Definition

Korsakoff syndrome is a disorder that affects memory. It often happens in people who have had Wernicke encephalopathy.

The Brain

Nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

This problem happens due to low levels of vitamin B1 (thiamine). Alcohol use disorder is the most common cause. It prevents the body from getting enough of this vitamin.

Other causes may be:

  • Eating disorders
  • Long term vomiting
  • Mental health problems
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cancer

Genes may also play a role.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in men. It is also more common in people who are 50 to 60 years of age.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Severe memory problems are the main symptom. A person may have a hard time remembering recent events and new information, such as today's date. People may make up information to fit a given situation.

Other problems may be:

  • Confusion
  • Learning problems
  • Problems communicating
  • Trouble focusing
  • Problems with walking and balance

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Memory function will be tested. This can be done with neuropsychological testing.

Images of the brain may be taken. This can be done with an MRI scan.

Treatment

Underlying causes will need to be treated. For some, this will mean not drinking alcohol. A rehabilitation program can help.

The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and stop the disease from getting worse. Nutrition counseling and thiamine supplements may be used.

Prevention

Korsakoff syndrome often happens after a person has had Wernicke encephalopathy. The risk of this problem can be lowered by:

  • Getting enough thiamine from food sources
  • Limiting alcohol

RESOURCES:

Alcoholics Anonymous
http://www.aa.org
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
http://www.niaaa.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Alcoholics Anonymous Canada
http://www.aacanada.com
Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

References:

Covell T, Siddiqui W. (2020). Korsakoff Syndrome. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
Kopelman MD, Thomson AD, et al. The Korsakoff syndrome: clinical aspects, psychology and treatment. Alcohol Alcohol. 2009 Mar-Apr;44(2):148-154.
Korsakoff syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/korsakoff-syndrome. Accessed February 3, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 2/3/2021

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.

Home |Terms and Conditions |Concerned About Privacy? |Accessibility |Careers |For Employers and Medical Plan Providers

You may also be looking for: CVS/pharmacy | MinuteClinic | Specialty Pharmacy | SilverScript | Accordant