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Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome : Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome is primarily caused by the deficiency of thiamine, (Vitamin B1) usually due to chronic alcohol abuse. But Korsakoff Syndrome can have other origins other than alcohol abuse - chronic vomiting that may inhibit the absorption of Thiamine.

Neurological complications of alcohol abuse may also result from nutritional deficiency exacerbated by the excessive intake of alcohol which depletes Vitamin B1 - thiamine essential for normal nervous system. Sudden changes in blood chemistry specifically sodium, may cause central pontine myelinolysis, a condition of the brainstem in which nerves lose their myelin coating. Other complication include Liver disease and alcoholic cirrhosis.

Such conditions - if left untreated can progress to the onset of Wernicke encephalopathy - whose symptoms include marked confusion, delirium, disorientation, memory loss and drowsiness. Physical Examination may reveal abnormalities of eye movement, jerking of the eyes (nystagmus) and double vision. Even walking may seem hard to do as the patient has problems with balance and muscular co-ordination. If thiamine is not administered soon Wernicke encephalopathy may progress to stupor, coma and death.

If Thiamine is administered in time, the patient may escape from death but Korsakoff’s syndrome may still leave him/her crippled from permanent memory impairment - some may not remember events for a period of a few years before the onset of illness (retrograde amnesia) and unable to learn new information (anterograde amnesia).
Repeated episodes of Encephalopathy and/or prolonged alcohol abuse may lead to Korsakoff psychosis a form of dementia.

Alcoholic myopathy or muscular weakness due to breakdown of muscle tissue, is called as alcoholic rhabdomyolysis or alcoholic myoglobinuria. Usually men are affected by alcoholic myopathy about 4 times as often as women. Breakdown of muscle tissue (myonecrosis), can occur at any time during binge drinking or in the first days of alcohol withdrawal. Although this itself may not result in any apparent symptom in the initial stages, it can still be detected by temporary elevation in blood levels of an enzyme the MM fraction of creatine kinase - found in muscles.

Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome also known as Cerebral Beriberi, usually occurs in chronic alcoholics and affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It can be caused by a situation that aggravates a chronic thiamine deficiency, like an alcoholic binge or severe vomiting.

Vitamin B1

Vitamin B1 or thiamine helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy and it is necessary for the heart muscles, nervous system and brain to function properly. Very low levels of Vitamin B1 can lead to Beriberi - a cardiovascular and neurological disease. Deficiency of Vitamin B1 can cause weight loss and weakness. Fortified breads, cereals, pasta, meat, fish, dried beans, leafy vegetables, whole grains, egg yolk, soy foods and peas contain Vitamin B1. Brewer's yeast is a natural source high in thiamine.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:

Adults - Men: 1.2 mg
Adults - Women: 1.1 mg
Pregnant Women: 1.4 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 1.5 mg

Vitamin B1 is generally well tolerated and rarely produces adverse side effects with high doses. Deficiency of Vitamin B1 can result in Beriberi ( literally 'I can't' in Sinhalese language) - a disease with the symptoms of loss of appetite, weakness, irritability, tingling of nerves, poor muscles coordination and muscular pain in the calves. This disease is due to poor metabolization of glucose.


Vitamin B complex

B Vitamins - the group of water soluble vitamins essential for the normal functioning are not usually produced by our bodies and require to be replenished regularly.

Vitamin B1 - Thiamine
Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin
Vitamin B3 - Niacin, Niacinamide
Vitamin B5 - Pantothenic acid
Vitamin B6 - Pyridoxine
Vitamin B7 - Biotin
Vitamin B9 - Folic Acid
Vitamin B12 - Cyanocobalamin


Some Vitamin B Complex formulations, in addition to the above major B Vitamins, may contain inositol, choline bitartrate and Para Amino Benzoic Acid - PABA.


Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 also known as Pantothenic acid is often used in combination with other B Vitamins in Vitamin B formulations. Vitamin B5 is primarily used for treating dietary deficiencies, acne, alcoholism, allergies, baldness, asthma, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, burning feet syndrome, yeast infections, heart failure, carpal tunnel syndrome, respiratory disorders, celiac disease, colitis, conjunctivitis, convulsions and cystitis. Some times Vitamin B5 is also used for controlling dandruff, depression,tongue infections, gray hair, headache, hyperactivity, low blood sugar, insomnia, irritability, muscular dystrophy, muscular cramps in the legs associated with pregnancy or alcoholism and improving athletic performance.

RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:
Adults - Men: 5 mg
Adults - Women: 5 mg
Pregnant Women: 6 mg
Breastfeeding Women: 7 mg
Vitamin B5 is generally well tolerated in moderate doses but may produce adverse side effects like diarrhea with high doses.

Biotin or Vitamin B7: RDA - Recommended Daily Allowance:
Adults: 30 microgram
Biotin deficiency manifests in the form of scaly inflammation of the skin, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, anemia, depression and general weakness.

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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: November 11, 2019