If your loved one began showing signs that something wasn’t right, you may have approached a doctor – or several – for help. To your dismay, the doctor may have dismissed the unusual symptoms as belonging to your loved one’s lifestyle, and not of any treatable illness. Unfortunately, this often happens for victims of Wernicke’s encephalopathy or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
What is Wernicke’s encephalopathy
Wernicke’s encephalopathy occurs when the body lacks thiamine, also known as vitamin B-1. You take B-1 into your body when you eat breads, meat, beans and nuts. Your body needs thiamine for a healthy heart and immune system. B-1 in foods is also thought to provide you with energy. A lack of thiamine places your body at risk of serious health problems, especially neurological issues such as those associated with Wernicke’s encephalopathy, including:
- Confusion becoming progressively worse
- Lack of coordination
- Abnormal eye movements
- Double vision
You can see why this may be difficult for a doctor to diagnose since those who suffer from Wernicke’s encephalopathy are frequently people who abuse alcohol, and some of the symptoms may mirror alcohol use. However, people with other conditions may also suffer from Wernicke’s encephalopathy, such as:
- Certain cancers and cancer treatments
- Bariatric surgery
- Kidney disease
- Malnourishment due to poverty
If your loved one’s Texas doctor dismissed the symptoms or treated the Wernicke’s encephalopathy as a psychological disorder, the disease likely continued to progress into Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and the symptoms may have gotten worse. With Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, your loved one may display a profound memory loss, hallucinations and difficulty forming memories. These conditions are typically permanent. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome may eventually lead to death.
Diagnosing Wernicke’s encephalopathy is as simple as observing the signs and running some simple blood tests. Recognizing the symptoms early and diagnosing Wernicke’s encephalopathy as quickly as possible is important for treatment to be effective. In fact, treating Wernicke’s encephalopathy is often as easy as providing B-1 injections and improving your loved one’s diet. A doctor’s delay in providing adequate treatment may have left your loved one with a lifetime of struggle.