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If not caught in time, Wernicke's Encephalopathy only gets worse

You may have learned about scurvy in a history class somewhere in your educational journey. This vitamin C deficiency can cause a host of health problems, but one can easily avoid it by eating citrus fruits or otherwise getting enough vitamin C in your diet. These days, you don't see scurvy much, if at all, in this country, but it does stress the vital importance of vitamins in your diet.

Another crucial vitamin you need in your diet is vitamin B1, or thiamine. Most people get enough of this one through the food they eat as well. If you look at just about any cereal box in your home, you will find it fortified with vitamin B1. If you are deficient in this vitamin, the cure is as simple as eating food containing it or receiving an injection of it from a doctor. However, if your condition goes unchecked, you could develop serious health issues.

Wernicke's Encephalopathy

This is the first stage of what the medical field refers to as "wet brain." These days, doctors see most cases in people suffering from severe alcoholism. It usually comes on quickly and can cause death. In fact, 20% of deaths from this condition and 75% of cases resulting in brain damage happen because doctors fail to properly diagnose it in time.

The condition begins with staggering, paralysis of eye movements and mental confusion. It then progresses into Korsakoff's Psychosis in which your brain loses memory function. Now, doctors would label your condition as wet brain, or Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.

What happens to you if you have Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome?

Wet brain comes with a variety of debilitating and often irreversible consequences listed below that could last the rest of your life:

  • You may never again be able to form new memories.
  • You may suffer from severe memory loss.
  • You may suffer from "confabulation," which means you have memories of events that never happened.
  • The paralysis of your eye movements may end up a permanent condition.
  • You could regularly experience drowsiness and confusion.
  • You could suffer from visual and auditory hallucinations.
  • You could develop an irregular gait and staggering, called ataxia.

Obviously, these hallmarks of wet brain can have a profound effect on the rest of your life -- all because your doctor failed to catch a vitamin B1 deficiency in time. If your doctor is aware of your problem with alcohol, he or she should watch for this problem. The cure is so simple when caught in time. If you end up with Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, it may very well be due to medical malpractice.

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