If someone made you take vitamins and made sure you ate nutritious food as a child, you should thank that person. As it turns out, your brain needs certain vitamins in order to work properly. For example, without appropriate levels of vitamin B-1, or thiamine, you risk significant loss of brain function.
What is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?
A B-1 deficiency can lead to a debilitating brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS). Actually, two disorders make up this syndrome:
1. Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WD): This disease usually precedes the other. It causes the lower parts of your brain to bleed. Symptoms include:
- Drooping upper eye lid
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Double vision
- Confused mental state
- up-and-down or side-to-side eye movements
2. Korsakoff psychosis: This condition occurs when the brain damage from Wernicke’s encephalopathy goes untreated and affects the memory centers of the brain. You will begin exhibiting signs of the following if you suffer from this condition:
- exaggeration of stories
- difficulty understanding information
- difficulty putting words into context
- amnesia (after onset)
Ordinarily, with a timely diagnosis and treatment for Wernicke’s encephalopathy, you will not develop Korsakoff psychosis.
How are WD and WKS treated?
The treatment for WD and WKS often begins with intravenous vitamin B-1. Thereafter, vitamin B-1 taken by mouth and a diet rich in thiamine should keep your levels up. The proper treatment might arrest the progression of WKS, and if the damage to your brain is not permanent, it could be reversed.
If it is so simple to treat, why do people suffer from WD or WKS?
Certain segments of the population are at greater risk for a B-1 deficiency. Below are some of the more common conditions, procedures or diseases that put you at risk for WD or WKS due to malabsorption of thiamine:
- An alcohol problem
- An eating disorder
- Gastric bypass
- Bariatric surgery
- High carbohydrate diet
- Poor diet
- Chronic nausea and vomiting during pregnancy
- Kidney dialysis
- Colon cancer
If your doctor fails to take a thorough medical history, ignores any of these risk factors or ignores your symptoms, he or she might fail to order the appropriate tests to determine whether you suffer from a B-1 deficiency.
So, does a delayed or missed diagnosis constitute medical malpractice?
The short answer is maybe. A thorough review of your circumstances and your medical records is required. If other medical professionals of similar experience and qualifications believe that your doctor missed opportunities to diagnose and treat you, then a medical malpractice claim might be appropriate.
The damage done to your brain could prevent you from working and otherwise living a normal life. You need a compassionate, knowledgeable and aggressive attorney to advocate on your behalf with the courts. If your doctor, or multiple doctors, failed you, you deserve compensation and the right to hold them accountable.