What is Korsakoff’s Syndrome?

Korsakoff’s syndrome or Wernicke’s-Korsakoff’s Syndrome is the most well-known form of Alcohol-Related Brain Damage (ARBD),  a brain disorder that is generally associated with heavy drinking sustained over a long period or consumption, attributed by a lack of Thiamine.

In recent years it was referred to as Korsakoff’s psychosis; however, this is confusing as korsakoff’s has no psychotic medical symptoms. It is caused by a lack of Thiamine (Vitamin B1), which affects the brain and nervous system.

What causes Korsakoff’s Syndrome?

Many heavy drinkers have poor eating habits and an inadequate diet, which often results in the body becoming depleted in a lack of essential vitamins.  Consumption and long term alcohol abuse can also potentially cause the stomach lining to inflame, making it harder for the body to absorb these essential vitamins, in particular, vitamin B1.  Vitamine B1 also called Thiamine, is responsible for converting food into energy and has many important neurological benefits too.

Korsakoff’s syndrome is the chronic form of Wernicke’s encephalopathy and is sometimes referred to as alcohol-related brain damage or dementia (ARBD). Korsakoff’s may result if Wernicke’s encephalopathy is not treated or is not detected in time. It is not easily resolved and can continue over a long period, even permanently. Damage occurs to small but essential areas in the middle part of the brain, causing severe short-term memory loss. This memory loss is the most significant feature of the condition, and many other abilities remain unaffected. This is where Korsakoff’s differs from most types of dementia, where there is often damage to a large area of the outer part of the brain.

Symptoms of Korsakoff’s Syndrome include:

  • Difficulty with taking on board new information or developing new skills
  • Lack of insight into their memory loss, where even someone with significant gaps in their memory may believe that they are functioning normally
  • Apathy or repetitive behaviours
  • Sensory problems, where they may encounter hallucinations
  • Confabulation; where someone fills out the gaps in their memory with elaborate stories but believes what they are saying is actually true.

Notaro ARBD (Alcohol Related Brain Damage) Care do not offer detoxification but instead provide a way forward to rebuild people’s life skills, encouraging and engaging with each individual, daily, to maximise the opportunity for them return to an independent life in the community.  Although this may not always be an option if the individual’s condition is too severe. In this case, we can offer a home for life.

To view our homes that provide specialist residential support for people living with Korsakoff’s Syndrome, such as Vane Hill located in Torquay, or Serenita or Campania both located in Weston-super-Mare, please click here.