Korsakoff’s syndrome

Korsakoff’s syndrome is an example of a dementia that is not progressive.  It accounts for around 10% of dementias in younger people and is caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine).  It is most commonly associated with alcohol abuse but can also be caused by excessive vomiting in pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum), gastric bands and bulimia.  People can become deficient in thiamine because their diet does not give them the right nutrients.  Alcohol can also interfere with the body’s ability to effectively use thiamine and the liver’s ability to store vitamins.

In its early stages, the condition is known as Wernicke encephalopathy.  Its symptoms can be reversed if people are given high doses of thiamine in time.  If not, they often go on to develop Korsakoff's syndrome.   The main symptom is memory loss.  People can also experience a change in their personality, difficulty in acquiring new information or skills and inventing events to fill the gaps in their memory.

To download a fact sheet produced by Alcohol Concern about Korsakoff's syndrome, click here

You can read Nic's story about living with Korsakoff's syndrome by clicking here.

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