It is most commonly associated with chronic alcohol abuse but can result from any condition that leads to thiamine deficiency, including conditions preventing adequate food intake (eg, hyperemesis gravidarum). In alcoholism, it stems from inadequate dietary supply, reduced absorption, decreased hepatic storage and impaired utilization.
Acute Wernicke encephalopathy (WE) is a biochemical rather than a structural lesion. Prompt treatment can produce prompt recovery.
Chronic thiamine deficiency may lead to Korsakoff syndrome (KS; see Alcohol amnestic disorder).
E51.2 – Wernicke's encephalopathy
21007002 – Wernicke's disease
- Metabolic encephalopathy (eg, hepatic encephalopathy, uremic encephalopathy)
- Miller-Fisher syndrome (Guillain-Barre syndrome)
- Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis
- Mitochondrial disorders
- Intracranial hemorrhage
- Central nervous system infection (eg, herpes simplex virus encephalitis)
- Brain tumor
- Drug intoxication
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Postictal state
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy
- Normal pressure hydrocephalus