Neuropathology of thiamine deficiency disorders
The Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) is the most frequently encountered manifestation of thiamine deficiency in Western society. It is commonly seen in alcoholic patients, but may also occur in patients with impaired nutrition from other causes, such as those with gastrointestinal disease or AIDS. The pathology is restricted to the central nervous system and is characterised by neuronal loss, gliosis and vascular damage in regions surrounding the third and fourth ventricles and the cerebral aqueduct. In addition to WKS, thiamine deficiency may also result in beriberi, a cardiac and peripheral nervous system disease, and it has been implicated in the pathogenesis of cerebellar degeneration and peripheral neuropathy. Thus thiamine deficiency results in significant nervous system pathology and vigilance should be maintained in the diagnosis and treatment of this readily preventable cause of disease.