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Alcohol abuse could lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Your drinking got out of control for one reason or another. By the time you realized you had a problem with alcohol, it was too late. It began affecting every aspect of your life, including your health. You were under the impression that the medical issues you encountered were due to alcohol consumption, not another underlying problem.

Then, you received a diagnosis that should have come much earlier. One of the potential by-products of alcoholism is a vitamin B-1 deficiency. Thiamine, as it's also called, is a vital component to the body. Without it, people can develop serious medical issues such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which can be fatal.

Why is vitamin B-1 so important?

Thiamine helps the body process sugar, which then provides energy to the brain for proper function. Without this vitamin, you would begin experiencing symptoms similar to dementia. In fact, you may mistake your symptoms for dementia or shrug them off as the result of your alcohol issues. Without a timely diagnosis of a thiamine deficiency, which is easily cured by giving you large doses of vitamin B-1, you could develop the first part of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which is Wernicke's encephalopathy whose symptoms include the following:

  • Leg tremors
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Staggering
  • Decreased muscle control
  • Decreased mental ability
  • Eye and vision changes

With a timely and proper diagnosis, along with the right treatment, you could reverse this condition. However, if your doctor fails to identify your medical issue at this stage, you will continue to get worse.

The other half of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

Allowed to progress unchecked, Wernicke's encephalopathy will most likely turn into Korsakoff Syndrome. Symptoms at this stage also include the following:

  • Inability to create new memories
  • Inability to retrieve old memories
  • Making up stories
  • Hallucinating

Approximately 12 to 14 percent of those who abuse alcohol develop this condition. The problem is that it autopsies indicate that doctors fail to diagnose it in many cases. This makes it an underreported condition, which could put more people's lives in jeopardy. Physicians usually diagnose the condition through the process of elimination, which means that if a doctor fails to take the time to provide the proper care for you, he or she will misdiagnose you.

The Alzheimer's Association says that even with proper treatment, only 25 percent of people diagnosed with Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome will fully recover, and another 50 percent will only achieve partial recovery. The other 25 percent see no improvement in their condition. No matter where you fall, if a doctor failed to diagnose your condition when it could have been easily treated, he or she may not have provided you with the standard of care you deserved.

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