- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Wernicke's disease

Related people

An encephalopathy syndrome characterized by mental and ocular disorders, and ataxia. Mental disturbances include listlessness, disorientation, confusion, hallucinations, Korsakoff psychosis, and other behavioural symptoms. Ocular disorders are oculomotor paralysis, chiefly of the external recti, conjugate paralysis, and horizontal and vertigal nystagmus. The ataxia affects stance and gait. Other common features are nutritional deficiency, skin changes, redness of the tongue, cheilosis, liver diseases, cardiovascular complications and hypothermia. The symptoms usually have a sudden onset and occur singly or in various combinations. The term Gayet disease applies to the type in which lesions are more extensive than those in the Wernicke type. The disturbance is primarily due to thiamine deficiency secondary to alcoholism and/or starvation. It usually occurs in alcoholic patients, but in the Orient it has been observed in infants and adults with beriberi. Korsakoff's psychosis is the psychiatric manifestation of Wernicke's disease.


  • C. J. A. Gayet:
    Affection encéphalique (encéphalite diffuse probable). Localisée aux étages superieurs des pédoncles cérébraux et aux couches optiques, ainsi qu’ou plancher due quatrième ventricule et aux parois laterales du troisième. Observation recueillie.
    Archives de physiologie normale et pathologique, Paris, 1875, 2,2: 341-351.
  • K. Wernicke:
    Die acute, hämorrhagische Polioencephalitis superior.
    In his: Lehrbuch der Gehirnkrankheiten; Kassel, Fischer, and Berlin, 1881, 22: 229-242.

What is an eponym?

An eponym is a word derived from the name of a person, whether real or fictional. A medical eponym is thus any word related to medicine, whose name is derived from a person.

What is Whonamedit?

Whonamedit.com is a biographical dictionary of medical eponyms. It is our ambition to present a complete survey of all medical phenomena named for a person, with a biography of that person.


Whonamedit? does not give medical advice.
This survey of medical eponyms and the persons behind them is meant as a general interest site only. No information found here must under any circumstances be used for medical purposes, diagnostically, therapeutically or otherwise. If you, or anybody close to you, is affected, or believe to be affected, by any condition mentioned here: see a doctor.