Wernicke Encephalopathy Quiz

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Neurology

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Learn more about Wernicke encephalopathy

Content updated on Sep 20, 2022

What is wernicke encephalopathy?

Wernicke encephalopathy (WE) is a life threatening, degenerative condition of the brain characterized by weakness of the eye muscles, ataxia (loss of coordination, balance and speech) and confusion. It's caused by thiamine deficiency which results in nervous system damage.

Symptoms of wernicke encephalopathy

  • My brain is not functioning right now

  • Hallucinations

  • Abnormal behavior

  • Walking has become so unsteady that I always need to hold onto something for support

  • Hands and legs became clumsy - I cannot do fine work with them

  • Concentration is getting worse

  • Patient unable to recall or speak his/her name and birthday

  • Difficulty in walking

Questions your doctor may ask to check for wernicke encephalopathy

Your doctor may ask these questions to diagnose wernicke encephalopathy

  • Do you have problems focusing or a reduced sense of awareness in your surroundings?

  • Have you ever seen, heard, or smelt something that did not actually exist?

  • Have you noticed or been told that you have been acting strangely, differently from usual?

  • Has your walking become so unsteady that you always need to hold onto something for support?

  • Do you feel that it is harder to move your limbs or that you are more clumsy recently?

Treatment for wernicke encephalopathy

Wernicke encephalopathy is a medical emergency. It's possible to recover wirth prompt and quick correction of the thiamine deficiency in the brain. The condition can be reversed if treated within the first 2 to 3 days of symptoms.

View the symptoms of Wernicke encephalopathy

References

  • Latt N, Dore G. Thiamine in the treatment of Wernicke encephalopathy in patients with alcohol use disorders. Intern Med J. 2014 Sep;44(9):911-5. doi: 10.1111/imj.12522. PMID: 25201422.

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/imj.12522

  • Sinha S, Kataria A, Kolla BP, Thusius N, Loukianova LL. Wernicke Encephalopathy-Clinical Pearls. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019 Jun;94(6):1065-1072. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.02.018. PMID: 31171116.

    https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(19)30255-1/fulltext

  • Fujikawa T, Sogabe Y. Wernicke encephalopathy. CMAJ. 2020 Feb 10;192(6):E143. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.190998. PMID: 32041699; PMCID: PMC7012630.

    https://www.cmaj.ca/content/192/6/E143

  • Ota Y, Capizzano AA, Moritani T, Naganawa S, Kurokawa R, Srinivasan A. Comprehensive review of Wernicke encephalopathy: pathophysiology, clinical symptoms and imaging findings. Jpn J Radiol. 2020 Sep;38(9):809-820. doi: 10.1007/s11604-020-00989-3. Epub 2020 May 10. PMID: 32390125.

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11604-020-00989-3

Medically Reviewed By:

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Shohei Harase

Shohei Harase, MD

Neurology

Kameda Medical Center, Japan

Sanshiro Kato

Sanshiro Kato, MD

Emergency department

Kawai Clinic, Japan

Yu Shirai

Yu Shirai, MD

Psychiatry

Yotsuya Yui Clinic, Japan

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Yoshinori Abe, MD

Internal medicine

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Rohini R, MD

Ear, nose, throat (ENT)

Bayshore Health Centre, India

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Seiji Kanazawa, MD, PHD

Obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN)

National Center for Child Health and Development, Japan

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