Wernicke's disease

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Carl Wernicke in his study
Wernicke's disease is an encephalopathy syndrome characterized by mental and ocular disorders[1] and ataxia. Mental disturbances include confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, listlessness, Korsakoff psychosis and other behavioral symptoms. Common physical features are nutritional deficiency, skin changes, redness of the tongue, diseases of the liver, cardiovascular complications, and abnormal stance and locomotion. Symptoms usually have a sudden onset and may occur singly, or in a combination of several different ones.[2] It was first documented by the German neurologist Carl Wernicke.

Gayet's disease refers to the type in which lesions are more extensive than those in the Wernicke type and is primarily due to thiamine deficiency[3] resulting from alcoholism and/or starvation. It usually occurs in alcoholics, but in Asia it has been observed in infants and adults with beri beri.

Korsakoff's psychosis is the psychiatric manifestation of Wernicke's disease.


Gayet's disease
Gayet-Wernicke encephalopathy
Gayet-Wernicke haemorrhagic encephalitis
Gayet-Wernicke syndrome
Wernicke's encephalopathic syndrome
Wernicke's encephalopathy
Wernicke's syndrome
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome


C. J. A. Gayet: Affection encéphalique (encéphalite diffuse probable). Localisée aux étages superieurs des pédoncles cérébraux et aux couches optiques, ainsi qu’ou plancher due quatrième ventricule et aux parois laterales du troisième. Observation recueillie. Archives de physiologie normale et pathologique, Paris, 1875, 2,2: 341-351.

K. Wernicke: Die acute, hämorrhagische Polioencephalitis superior. In Lehrbuch der Gehirnkrankheiten; Kassel, Fischer, and Berlin, 1881, 22: 229-242.

Notes & references

  1. Wernicke's Disease at eMedicine
  2. Whonamedit.com
  3. Health Central