12. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is the combined presence of Wernicke's encephalopathy (WE) and Korsakoff's syndrome. Due to the close relationship between these two disorders, people with either are usually diagnosed with WKS, as a single syndrome.

The cause of the disorder is thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency, which can cause a range of disorders including beriberi, Wernicke's encephalopathy, and Korsakoff's psychosis. These disorders may manifest together or separately. WKS is usually secondary to alcohol abuse. It mainly causes vision changes, ataxia and impaired memory.

Wernicke's encephalopathy and WKS are most commonly seen in people who are alcoholic, and only 20% of cases are identified before death. This failure in diagnosis of WE and thus treatment of the disease leads to death in approximately 20% of cases, while 75% are left with permanent brain damage associated with WKS. Of those affected, 25% require long-term institutionalization in order to receive effective care.

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