Wernicke encephalopathy is an acute neurological disease often identified by signs of mental confusion, poor motor balance and coordination and eye and vision changes. If left unattended, it can transition to the chronic and irreversible condition called Korsakoff syndrome. When these two conditions merge, it is referred to as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS).
Driven by a vitamin B1 deficiency, WKS often arises due to alcoholism. However, excessive drinking is not the only potential cause. Malnutrition and eating disorders can also lead to this debilitating and life-threatening disease.
Proper nutrition and minimal alcohol consumption are key
If you begin to show signs of Wernicke encephalopathy such as double vision, a drooping upper eyelid or mental confusion, your doctor may order tests to check your thiamine and albumin levels. Often, low levels of these minerals can point to kidney or liver problems.
It’s important to understand that elimination of alcohol consumption partnered with a B1 supplement and a nutrient-dense diet can support dramatic healing. Foods that are high in vitamin B1 include:
- Whole wheat bread
- Lean pork
Once the disease transitions to full-blown WKS, the neurological degeneration can become much more severe and present as hallucinations, memory loss and difficulty communicating. Unfortunately, if left untreated, mortality rates for WKS are high. Oftentimes, these deaths occur due to blood poisoning, lung infection or irreversible brain damage.
You place implicit trust in your medical care provider to identify and treat potentially serious signs and symptoms. If you sustain complications due to misdiagnosis, under-diagnosis or failure to properly treat Wernicke encephalopathy, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.