Korsakoff Syndrome

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 30th January 2023 | All Sources

Korsakoff Syndrome is a memory-based disorder that is often compared to a dementia-like condition that affects the brain.

Korsakoff Syndrome

Commonly arising when an individual consumes large quantities of alcohol over an extended period, Korsakoff Syndrome typically impairs an individual’s life when the toxins found within alcohol reduces the body’s ability to produce B1.

A vital vitamin, B1 is fed to the brain through a substance known as Thiamine. Thiamine aids the brain’s ability to synthesise energy from the body’s sugars.

Sadly, a lack of Thiamine sees the brain unable to produce the required amount of energy that it needs to function correctly, produce and retain memories and develop skills.

Korsakoff Syndrome can also arise through prolonged malnutrition, diseases, infections and eating disorders.  In the same way that alcohol reduces the body’s ability to produce B1, malnutrition also significantly reduces an individual’s ability to produce B1.

This is because B1 deficiencies arise when an individual becomes malnourished. Sadly, as touched on above, a lack of Thiamine impairs the brain’s ability to function correctly.  It also impairs an individual’s ability to retain memories.


Who Does Korsakoff Syndrome Impact?

As Korsakoff Syndrome arises when a lack of B1 is observed, the syndrome is most common in individuals that struggle with alcohol addictions or are highly malnourished.

Due to being a memory-based disorder, it is a common misconception that Korsakoff Syndrome only impairs the elderly.  Sadly, the Alzheimer’s Association has confirmed that that syndrome often impairs men and women between the ages of 30 and 60.


Signs and Symptoms That Korsakoff Syndrome Is Present

Determining whether Korsakoff Syndrome is present in an individual’s life can be difficult as many of the symptoms are also associated with illnesses that arise due to alcohol addictions, eating disorders and other diseases such as cancer.

However, there are signs and symptoms that can distinguish whether an individual could be suffering from the syndrome.

To help you understand the signs and symptoms of Korsakoff Syndrome, we have outlined various symptoms that typically come hand-in-hand below.

  • Inability to remember things that have happened
  • Inability to remember what someone has said
  • Struggling to learn and remember new information
  • Extreme confusion
  • Balance and movement problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Reduced levels of energy
  • Problems processing information
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty conversing with others

It should also be noted that it is common for sufferers to fabricate information, which they have ‘forgotten’.  This symptom is known as confabulation. However, the sufferer should not be accused of lying, as they will genuinely believe what they say is true.

If you have noticed any of the symptoms noted above in yourself or a loved one who frequently consumes alcohol, we would advise you to contact us to discuss whether Korsakoff Syndrome could be present.  We can also help you determine the support and treatment that is available.


Treatment For Korsakoff Syndrome

As a chronic memory disorder, it could be argued that the effects of Korsakoff Syndrome are irreversible.  However, if the syndrome is spotted in its early stages, there are treatments available that can reverse the damage that a lack of Thiamine has caused.

In the instance that Korsakoff Syndrome is distinguished before escalation, raw Thiamine can be injected into the Korsakoff Syndrome sufferers’ body to counteract the deficiency that causes the syndrome to arise. Since the disease affects short-term memory, memories relating to the period before the onset of the illness are usually left intact.

Rehabilitation for alcohol addictions is also highly recommended when considering treatment for Korsakoff Syndrome.  This is because reducing alcohol intake enables the body to naturally restore the brain’s ability to synthesise energy from the body’s natural sugar levels.

If an individual undergoes raw Thiamine injections yet continues to consume alcohol, the treatment will be ineffective, and an individual will sadly mitigate their chances of overcoming Korsakoff Syndrome.

In the unfortunate situation that the disease does not retreat following a series of Thiamine injections, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is common.


Recovery Statistics

Upon understanding who Korsakoff Syndrome impacts and the available treatment, you may well find yourself hoping to uncover recovery statistics related to the disease. If this resonates with you, we have provided just a few statistics below.

  • 25% of individuals suffering from Korsakoff Syndrome go on to make a full recovery
  • 50% of those struggling with the syndrome will make a partial recovery and will require assisted living for the remainder of their lifetime.
  • The remaining 25% of sufferers make no recovery and sadly need institutional living for the rest of their life.

With the above statistics in mind, it is essential to seek treatment for alcohol addictions as soon as possible.  Although you may feel apprehensive about doing so, attending a drug and alcohol rehab for treatment will ultimately minimise your chances of developing Korsakoff Syndrome.


Determining Whether Korsakoff Syndrome Is Present

Determining whether Korsakoff Syndrome is present in an individual’s life is somewhat tricky.  This is because, at present, no tests have been developed to distinguish whether an individual has Korsakoff Syndrome.

Although there are several signs and symptoms that can indicate that an individual is struggling with the syndrome, as previously mentioned, many of the symptoms often associated with Korsakoff Syndrome can be linked to other illnesses which are usually experienced as a result of alcohol addictions.

However, upon admission to our residential drug and alcohol rehab, at Cassiobury Court, we routinely screen individuals that have developed an alcohol addiction for memory loss.

Although screening for memory loss will not determine whether an individual has developed Korsakoff Syndrome, these tests can determine whether memory loss is present.  Treatment and therapy can then be administered in an attempt to recover an individual’s memory.


Contact Cassiobury Court Today

If you would like to find out more about Korsakoff Syndrome, discuss your worries and concerns with us or refer yourself or a loved one for rehabilitation treatment, please contact us today by calling 01923 369 161.


John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 30th January 2023

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.