Wernicke encephalopathy is a brain disorder. It can lead to a variety of symptoms such as confusion, lack of muscle coordination, and eye movement difficulties.
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Wernicke encephalopathy is caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency. The deficiency may be caused by poor nutrition, problems absorbing vitamins, or both.
Vitamin B deficiency is common in those with alcoholism. Excessive intake of alcohol is associated with poor diets and damage to the intestines that make it difficult to absorb vitamins. However, not everyone with alcoholism develops Wernicke encephalopathy. A combination of genes and diet may play a role.
Factors that may increase your risk of Wernicke encephalopathy include:
Symptoms may include:
- Mental status changes, including confusion, poor concentration, lack of emotion, and memory loss
- Vision problems
- Poor coordination
- Difficulty walking and sitting
- Nausea and vomiting
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
The level of thiamine in your blood will be measured. This can be done with a blood test.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
- Thiamin supplements—to treat the thiamine deficiency that is causing your Wernicke encephalopathy.
- Dietary changes—you will need to drink plenty of water. You may also be referred to a dietitian to help with meal planning, especially if your diet is high in carbohydrates.
If Wernicke encephalopathy is associated with alcoholism or an eating disorder, you may be referred to a rehabilitation facility.
To help reduce your chance of getting Wernicke encephalopathy, take these steps:
Ensure that you are getting enough thiamine in your diet.
- Daily goals are 1.1 mg a day for women and 1.2 mg a day for men
- Include foods rich in thiamine such as lentils, peas, fortified breakfast cereal, pecans, spinach, oranges, milk, and eggs
Limit your alcohol intake to a moderate level.
- Moderate is two or fewer drinks per day for men and one or fewer drinks per day for women
- If you have a drinking problem, talk to your doctor right away about treatment options.
- Michael Woods, MD
- Reviewed: 12/2014
- Updated: 12/20/2014
Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Allegiance Health or performed by Allegiance Health physicians.
All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.