Wernicke's Encephalopathy in a Patient with Schizophrenia


Address correspondence and requests for reprints to Dr. Harrison: Division of Hospital Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR (e-mail: harrisor@ohsu.edu).


Clinically, we most often associate Wernicke's encephalopathy (WE) with an alcohol abusing population. However, it is important to consider other causes of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency as risk factors for the development of this disorder. We present a case of a 51-year-old man with schizophrenia and malnutrition who presented with delirium, ophthalmoplegia, and seizures. He responded rapidly to the administration of IV thiamine. Because of the high rate of mortality and morbidity, WE should be high on the differential of any patient at risk for malnutrition or with ophthalmoplegia, regardless of alcohol history. This is particularly important in psychiatric patients where the syndrome may be masked and thus treatment delayed.