May also be called: Thiamine Deficiency; Vitamin B1 Deficiency
Beriberi (BAIR-ee-BAIR-ee) is a disease caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1)
that mainly affects the cardiovascular and nervous
More to Know
Thiamine, also called vitamin B1, is an essential nutrient involved in muscle
and nervous system functioning, breaking down carbohydrates,
and producing acids necessary for proper digestion. Thiamine can be found in foods
such as meats, dairy products, whole grains, vegetables, beans, and nuts.
Too little thiamine in the body can lead to beriberi. The main types of beriberi
Dry beriberi, which affects the nervous system. Symptoms include vomiting, seizures,
muscle weakness, loss of muscle function in the legs, and mental confusion.
Wet beriberi, which affects the cardiovascular system. Symptoms include shortness
of breath, swelling of the lower legs, rapid heart rate, and chest pain.
Beriberi is most commonly associated with people who abuse alcohol and those whose
diet consists mainly of refined white rice. In rare cases, new mothers who lack sufficient
thiamine can pass beriberi on to breastfeeding infants.
If it's not treated, beriberi can lead to heart failure, coma, psychosis, and death.
Fortunately, beriberi is rare in developed countries, where most foods are enriched
Beriberi is treated with thiamine supplements that can be swallowed or injected.
Keep in Mind
Anyone who eats a healthy diet should get enough thiamine. For those who do develop beriberi,
prompt treatment usually brings quick improvement and can reverse damage to the heart
and nervous system. If treatment is delayed, however, some damage can become permanent,
so a doctor should be consulted as soon as symptoms start.
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