Medical Dictionary

Wernicke's encephalopathy


Medical Definition of Wernicke's encephalopathy

  1. :  an acute inflammatory hemorrhagic encephalopathy that is caused by thiamine deficiency (such as that associated with chronic alcoholism or malnutrition) and is characterized by loss of muscle coordination, visual disturbances (such as abnormal eye movement and diplopia), and confusion and memory loss Wernicke's encephalopathy is life-threatening if untreated and often precedes Korsakoff syndrome.

Biographical Note for wernicke's encephalopathy




(1848–1905), German neurologist. Wernicke is important for his work in relating nerve diseases to specific areas of the brain. The last two decades of his life were spent as professor of neurology and psychiatry first at Breslau and then at Halle, Germany. Wernicke belonged to a 19th-century school of German neuropsychiatry that made no distinction between disorders of the mind and disorders of the brain. He is best known for his studies of aphasia.

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a rounded knoll or a ridge of ice

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