Neurological Disorders

ISSN: 2329-6895

Open Access

Thirty Days without a Bite: Wernicke’s Encephalopathy in a Patient with Paranoid Schizophrenia.


Mélanie Langlois, Marie-Claire Doré and Robert Laforce Jr

Wernicke’s Encephalopathy (WE) is a preventable neurologic condition characterized by altered mental status, ophthalmoplegia, and ataxia. Although historically associated with alcoholism, a few authors have described WE in patients with non-alcohol related psychiatric disorders. We report herein the case of a 36-year-old young man with paranoid schizophrenia who was brought to hospital for confusion and difficulties with his vision. His roommate said he had gone about thirty days without eating ‘…because he was on a slimming cure’. History and physical examination suggested WE as a result of isolation and poor diet leading to nutritional deficiency. This was confirmed by brain magnetic resonance imaging showing classic thalamic, mammillary bodies and brainstem lesions. Of note, his cognitive profile was far more heterogeneous than what had classically been described in the literature and involved both cortical and subcortical pathology, generating memory but also significant executive deficits. Intravenous treatment with thiamine was given and our patient showed mild improvements in visual acuity and nystagmus. However, persistent cognitive and physical disabilities consistent with Korsakoff syndrome remained, and he now lives in a supervised home. This case illustrates the tragic consequences of nutritional deficiencies in a patient with paranoid schizophrenia. The threshold to suspect WE in schizophrenic patients should be lowered and in doubt prophylactic parenteral thiamine should be administered.


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