Epidemiology

The prevalence of this condition, according to unselected autopsy studies, varies throughout the world from 0.8% to 2.8%.[1][2] According to clinical studies, this figure is lower, between 0.04% and 0.13%, perhaps reflecting underdiagnosis of this condition.[3][4] Wernicke’s encephalopathy has a higher prevalence in patients with a history of alcohol dependence (12.5%), AIDS (10%), and bone marrow transplantation (6%).[5][6][7] Other risk factors include malnutrition of any cause, malignancy, gastric bypass surgery, haemodialysis and hyperemesis gravidarum.[8] The prevalence is higher in males (male:female ratio of 1.7:1), a finding attributed to the increased frequency of alcoholism in men.[4] However, non-alcohol-related Wernicke encephalopathy may be more common in women.[9]

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