Skip to Content
UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital
SHARE TEXT

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a serious brain disorder that can develop in people who drink alcohol excessively over time. Symptoms include blurred vision, rapid movement of the eyes, and difficulty walking.

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a combination of two conditions: Wernicke syndrome and Korsakoff syndrome.

  • Wernicke syndrome is caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. Symptoms such as blurred vision may go away if a person stops drinking and takes thiamine supplements.
  • Korsakoff syndrome is caused by changes in the brain that result from long-term alcohol use. Symptoms include confusion and memory loss, especially of recent events, which often lead the person to make up events (confabulation) to fill the memory gaps. The effects of Korsakoff syndrome may be permanent.

Treatment for Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome includes replacement of thiamine, proper nutrition and body fluids (hydration), and avoiding alcohol use.

Last Revised: January 18, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.