This handout is designed for patients and families who are facing Korsakoff syndrome, a chronic memory disorder caused by severe deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B-1).
If you've ever seen the movie 50 first dates, you have a sense for what it's like to interact with someone who has Korsakoff syndrome. Korsakoff syndrome is the result of severe Thiamine (vitamin B-1) deficiency. Within 2-3 weeks of decreased intake and resulting thiamine depletion, areas of the brain with the highest thiamine content and turnover demonstrate cellular impairment and injury.
This type of memory loss can be devastating for patients and their families. While there is no cure for Korsakoff syndrome, there are excellent compensatory and adaptive strategies that speech-language pathologists can implement in order to increase independence, reduce reliance on caregivers, and ultimately help these people re-integrate into the community and live as independent of a life as possible.
Approximately 80% of people who have Korsakoff syndrome go undiagnosed and untreated (Kopelman et al, 2009). As a speech-language pathologist, you can know the signs and symptoms and be the first to refer to appropriate care to reduce the risk of unnecessary institutionalization of these people.