Korsakoff’s syndrome is not a form of dementia. But it does belong here below because the symptoms are very similar to those of dementia.
Causes of Korsakoff’s syndrome
Korsakoff is caused by a serious lack of vitamin B1. Usually this vitamin deficiency is a result of prolonged excessive alcohol use in combination with too little and unhealthy food. A serious vitamin B1 deficiency can also be caused by severe gastrointestinal problems, anorexia or a hunger strike. Due to the lack of vitamin, part of the nerve cells in the brain are affected. This causes memory loss, the patient loses the ability to learn something new and can no longer perform everyday actions properly.
Symptoms of Korsakoff
The memory problems and other symptoms are very similar to dementia. Korsakoff’s syndrome is more obvious if the person:
- Has an alcohol addiction and eats too little and unhealthy;
- Because of other diseases such as anorexia or gastrointestinal problems a vitamin B1 deficiency;
- Always taking care of itself;
- Memory loss (short-term memory);
- Has no insight into his or her condition (‘I have no memory problems’);
- Can not learn new things;
- Can not properly display the chronological order of events;
- Difficulty with everyday activities such as dressing and undressing;
- Complaints are given to the heart, liver or pancreas;
- Have more and more difficult moves;
- Rapidly is sad, irritable or short-tempered, showing apathetic or unrestrained behavior;
- Confiscates; he fills the holes in his memory with fantasy stories. We call this ‘confiscating’, or ‘honest lying’, because someone with Korsakoff is convinced that he tells the truth.
Course of Korsakoff
Korsakoff can occur at any age, but the older you are and the longer you have an alcohol problem, the greater the risk. Most Korsakov patients are older than 45 years. Korsakoff’s syndrome is not a progressive disease such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The disease can not be cured, but you can live for years with this syndrome. The condition is that you stop drinking alcohol. By stopping drinking alcohol and eating healthy, the state of health can be improved. Failing that, life can become completely disrupted. Admission to a specialized institution is usually necessary.
You can prevent Korsakoff by ensuring that the person gets enough vitamin B1 daily. That will probably be a difficult task, because they do not need food because of the alcohol. In addition, to prevent the syndrome, you also need to recognize the symptoms of Wernicke encephalopathy. This is a forerunner of Korsakoff and is characterized by:
- Confusion, disorientation and memory loss;
- Malnutrition symptoms;
- Coordination problems and uncontrolled movements;
- Sudden, uncontrolled eye movements or paralysis of the eye muscle.
If there is a suspicion of Wernicke, immediately contact a doctor. With additional vitamin injections it can be prevented that the person develops Korsakoff.