Thyrotoxicosis associated Wernicke's encephalopathy

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jan;23(1):106-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0438-3. Epub 2007 Nov 17.


Background: Wernicke's encephalopathy is a rare disorder resulting from nutrition deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1). It is most often associated with chronic alcohol abuse. It can accompany other disorders such as hyperemesis gravidarum and hyperthyroidism.

Case: We present a case of severe Wernicke's encephalopathy that developed in a male non-alcoholic inpatient that was precipitated by poor nutritional intake and development of thyrotoxicosis. It is likely that the hypermetabolic state from thyrotoxicosis contributed to the development of Wernicke's encephalopathy, which was extremely debilitating.

Conclusion: Wernicke's encephalopathy is a severe, life-threatening illness that can be a consequence of hyperthyroidism in addition to alcohol abuse and can be easily prevented with appropriate supplementation of thiamine.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prisoners
  • Starvation / complications*
  • Thiamine / administration & dosage
  • Thiamine / metabolism
  • Thiamine Deficiency* / diagnosis
  • Thiamine Deficiency* / etiology
  • Thyroid Function Tests
  • Thyrotoxicosis / complications*
  • Thyrotoxicosis / diagnosis
  • Vitamin B Complex / administration & dosage
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy / diagnosis
  • Wernicke Encephalopathy / etiology*


  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Thiamine