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Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a combination of Korsakoff's syndrome which constitutes confusion, aphonia and confabulation and Wernicke's encephalopathy which is nystagmus, opthalmoplegia, coma and, if untreated, death. It is also known as cerebral beriberi, which is beriberi (thiamine deficiency disease) in the brain.

This results from severe acute deficiency of thiamine superimposed on a chronic deficiency. Usually found in malnourished chronic alcoholics.

The diagnosis can be confirmed by measuring blood levels of thiamine. Treatment is to reverse the thiamine deficiency by giving supplemental thiamine - usually an injection to begin with and supplemental oral doses.

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