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Korsakoffs Syndrome

Overview :

In the United States, the most common cause of thiamine deficiency is alcoholism. Other conditions which cause thiamine deficiency occur quite rarely, but can be seen in patients undergoing dialysis (a procedure used primarily for patients suffering from kidney failure, during which the patient's blood circulates outside of the body, is mechanically cleansed, and then is circulated back into the body), pregnant women with a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (a condition of extreme morning sickness, during which the woman vomits up nearly all fluid and food intake), and patients after surgery who are given vitamin-free fluids for a prolonged period of time. Thiamine deficiency is an important cause of disability in developing countries where the main source of food is polished rice (rice with the more nutritious outer husk removed).

An associated disorder, Wernicke's syndrome, often precedes Korsakoff's syndrome. In fact, they so often occur together that the spectrum of symptoms produced during the course of the two diseases is frequently referred to as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The main symptoms of Wernicke's syndrome include ataxia (difficulty in walking and maintaining balance), paralysis of some of the muscles responsible for movement of the eyes, and confusion. Untreated Wernicke's will lead to coma and then death.

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