I truly believe my mother was misadiagnosed with Alzheimer’s when it was WKS. What is involved in diagnosis of WKS? If the DR doesn’t have the right picture of patient history, can’t it be missed? Or is he just being a nice guy and giving a “nice” diagnosis to an old lady, who is a daily drinker ? My parent’s like all good alkies, of which I am one minimize intake either from denial or outright deception. Also the stereotype/stigma added onto women alcoholics, esp. the older generations. I could ramble on both about my mothers last years and my families illness today that is ir rapid reproduction, but I’d rather get your input on it’s diagnostics and comparisons.
(We use our real names here.) Welcome to the group. Patient history plays a mahor role in the initial diagnosis or at least suspician of WKS. A definate diagnosis is via MRI but many are misdiagnosed with something different (because a lot of doctors especially in the US are not knowledgable). And, I fully believe, some doctors do as you say and “kindly” (NOT) give a nicer diagnosis. Many sufferers are very reluctant (I know this through experience) to admit their degree of drinking/alcoholism to a health expert so a correct diagnosis is less likely.
I also believe it’s possible to be diagnosed with both. My dad not only has the Korsakoff’s part of WKS, he also has dementia. He was diagnosed by an old school small mountain town doctor after he had an MRI and CT scan. This of course was done after my dad had gone through full blown alcohol DT’s. That is something I will never be able to forget. My dad had no memory of it what so ever nor the subsequent times this has happened. The doc back then, was nice enough to call it “Organic Brain Disease” on paper. I needed this for my leave of absense from work.
If alcoholism is such a rampid disease in the United States, why does our medical profession know so little about this?
Alzhiemer is progressive. WKS is not if she has stopped drinking and has
gotten Thiamine. Neuropsychological testing can help track the progression.
My mother did not change in a years time confirming the WKS diagnosis.
the only method to definitely diagnose ANY dementia with 100% accuracy,
including and especially WKS, is post mortem autopsy. Sometimes it can show
up on MRI’s , PET scans and fMRI’s but WKS is so poorly understood and
investigated that I doubt there is a standard protocol for diagnosis… It
is more common in underdeveloped countries and was very common , even in the
US , before we began fortifying foods with vitamin and minerals around 1920.
…The symptoms between the Alzheimer’s and WkS are somewhat similar but
WKS is primarily due the a thiamine (b vitamin) deficiency, usually has a
fairly abrupt onset and is a “static” dementia, meaning that it does not
progress, unless the factors that are responsible for it (primarily poor
diet and/or malabsorption/ alcohol consumption) continued unabated. If your
mother progressively deteriorated over an extensive period of time, losing
more global cognitive skills, as opposed to just memory, then i suppose the
more likely diagnosis would be Alzheimer’s or some other dementia—there
are over a dozen well defined dementia’s. Wernicke Korsakoff’s syndrome
involves destruction of mammailary bodies (dense area of neurons deep within
the brain) and their surrounding synaptic and dentrite connections, so the
person has a pronounced anterograde (short term memory) and sometimes
retrograde( long term memory) loss. In my own particular case, I have a
mixture of both but not to an extensive degree, which, ironically, is worse
than losing my memory entirely, IMHO; because I am aware of the losses ands
can recall who i was before, which is somewhat horrifying… I used
to drink quite a bit years before I became ill but had not been drinking for
many years prior to my illness. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder if my
former drinking had some correlation with the malabsortion and subsequent
vitamin deficiency that developed very rapidly (two months). …Here’s
some literature from reputable medical journals about WKS. Look at the
symptoms and causes and compare them to your mothers situation.
Wernicke’s/Beriberi/ Thiamine deficiency are basically synonymous. They’re
all a direct result of severe but undiagnosed nutritional deficiency.
Alcohol merely acts as a catalyst.
What happened to your mother that makes you suspect WKS? How did she become
ill? Acute or slow onset? What was she behaving like? Did she lose weight at
any point, etc?
Thanks for writing Phoenix… Hope to hear from you soon… And I also
hope that I haven’t confused you ant more than you may already have been : )
of these symptoms DO NOT have to be
present during a thiamine deficiency and WKS. In fact , most patients do not
have the classic triad of eye movement abnormalities, ataxia (movement
disorder) and cognitive disturbances, which is why the diagnosis is quite
often overlooked/missed, with devastating results for the patient.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beriberi …beriberi, which is the
peripheral (physical end) of the spectrum of thiamine deficiency. It’s
related to wernicke’s and many patients have a mixture of central
(cognitive) and (peripheral) physical nervous system symptoms—muscle
coordination, heart, respiratory,etc—these are autonomic/peripheral
nervous system symptoms…as opposed to your central nervous system is
your brain and spinal chord
…wernicke’s encephalopathy (precursor to korsakoff’s, the
permanent part, if it’s not treated in time) …wiki is not the
best source for information but it’s decent for overview of certain
My son with 5 years of WKS is still a mystery to me. The brain is so
comlicated, and is hard for the patient to understand what has happened to them, it
is just one day at a time living. I visit him in the nursing home daily.
Some days we talk and enjoy the visit… other days he just sits and stares…
His Dr. (neurologist) has him on several medications that keep him calm. I
am sorry about your father. Keep in touch… God Bless You
My son has WKS was diagnosed with it 5 years ago. Thru our experience, I
believe the most important type of Dr. is the neurologist. I
finallllllllllly found one that has had patients with this before and he has helped me to
understand a lot about the WKS. God Bless you.
Hello, my father also has WKS, from alcohol abuse many years. Is there any medications that your son takes to help? I am trying to learn all I can about it. so, any thing will be helful. Thank you and God bless you and your son. Sunni
Yes , my son is on several medications. None that will cure WKS, because
there is no cure. His medications are to help him stay calm,sleep, and manage
to still care for himself to some extent. I will recomend check with your
Dr. A neurologest if possible. Medications for Alzeimers will not help my
son.After 5 years of WKS, we can see he is now really starting to godown hill.
Each day is different, some good and some really sad. We just live 1 day at
a time. I hope you can get help for yor father soon. God Bless You.