What is the prevalence of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) in the US?

Updated: May 16, 2018
  • Author: Glen L Xiong, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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Eighty-five percent of the survivors of the acute phase of Wernicke encephalopathy who remain untreated go on to develop Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. [27]

Occurrence in the United States

Long-standing alcohol use is the most common association with development of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, although poor nutrition can also be an important factor. Prevalence data have come primarily from necropsy studies, with rates of 1-3%, and have indicated that prevalence at autopsy exceeds clinical detection. The rate has been found to be significantly higher in specific populations, ie, homeless people, older people (especially those living alone or in isolation), and psychiatric inpatients, where alcohol use and poor nutritional states predominate.

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