Korsakoff`s disease is a disease of the central nervous system characterized by short term memory loss.
The commonest cause of Korsakoff`s syndrome is alcoholism,
Although a number of different illnesses can be responsible. The mediating factor which is central to the occurrence of Korsakoff`s syndrome for all these illnesses is very low levels of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine.
The brain damage associated with Korsakoff`s syndrome may be fatal, and if not fatal be associated with the occurrence of dementia. However, the factor which differentiates Korsakoff`s syndrome itself from dementia is the marked short-term memory loss which occurs as a result of damage to specific brain areas. Korsakoff`s syndrome has a marked effect on brain areas responsible for short-term memory functions such as the maxillary bodies and lining of the cavities in the brain known as ventricles. This damage results in the disabling short-term memory loss typical of Korsakoff`s syndrome. Patients typically are unable to remember what they had for breakfast, but will remember in perfect detail the events of many years before.
The main area of memory affected is the ability to learn new information. Usually, intelligence and memory for past events is relatively unaffected, so that an individual may remember what occurred 10 years previously, but is unable to remember what occurred 10 minutes ago.
Involuntary, jerky eye movements
Paralysis of muscles moving the eyes
Staggering gait or inability to walk
Periods of being unable to recognise things for consequently the patient beliefs that he or she have misplaced them and can embark on a destructive search lasting hours .Korsakoff`s differs from most dementias, in which there is often damage to a large area of the cortex (the outer part of the brain). These dementias affect a much wider range of abilities
The main symptom is memory loss, particularly of events arising after the onset of the condition.
Sometimes, memories of the more distant past can also be affected.
Other symptoms may include:
Difficulty in acquiring new information or learning new skills.
Lack of insight into the condition
Even a person with great gaps in their memory may believe their memory is functioning normaly
Inventing events to fill the gaps in memory. This is more common in the early stages of the illness and is known as 'confabulation'.
Apathy, in some cases, or talkative and repetitive behaviour in others.
People can retain skills that they acquired before developing the disorder, so they are often able to manage with appropriate support.
How is Korsakoff`s Diagnosed?
Korsakoff`s cannot be diagnosed until the person has abstained from alcohol for at least four to five weeks to enable the acute symptoms of alcohol withdrawal to subside.
Psychological tests of the person's memory and other abilities will then be carried out to see whether they may have Korsakoff`s or some other condition.
They will also be observed to see whether their condition progresses without alcohol. If their condition does not change, they may be diagnosed with a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease.
It is possible to have both Korsakoffs and a dementia.
Who is affected?
Those affected tend to be men between the ages of 45 and 65 with a long history of alcohol abuse though it is possible to have Korsakoff`s at an older or a younger age.
Women can also be affected.
They tend to develop Korsakoff`s at a slightly younger age than men as they appear to be more vulnerable to the impact of alcohol. It has been suggested that whereas it may take around 20 years for a man to develop Korsakoffs syndrome, it may take about half that time for a woman.
It is not yet clear why some heavy drinkers develop Korsakoff`s syndrome and others do not, although this may relate to diet
help and information for those who suffer from korsakoff`s disease