Beriberi is a vitamin deficiency disease caused by inadequate bodily stores of thiamine (vitamin B1). It can damage the heart and nervous system.
Causes, Incidence, and Risk Factors:
There are two major manifestations of thiamine deficiency: cardiovascular disease (wet beriberi) and nervous system disease ("dry beriberi" and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome). Both types are most often caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
Symptoms of dry beriberi include pain, tingling, or loss of sensation in hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy), muscle wasting with loss of function or paralysis of the lower extremities, and potential brain damage and death. Wet beriberi is characterized by swelling, increased heart rate, lung congestion, and enlarged heart related to congestive heart failure. Beriberi has become rare in the United States because most foods are now vitamin-enriched, which means that a normal diet contains adequate amounts of thiamine.
Symptoms of Beriberi
- Appetite loss
- Muscle aches
- Limb pains
Treatments for Beriberi
- Oral thiamine
- Thiamine injections
- Vitamin B1 - possibly used for related vitamin B1 deficiency
- Vitamin B1
When a patient has serious symptoms of thiamine deficiency, supplementation is usually started by giving thiamine through an IV or by intramuscular shots. Because magnesium is required for the proper functioning of thiamine, magnesium is usually administered through injections as well. After several days of this therapy, a multivitamin containing 5–10 times the usually recommended daily allowance of all the water-soluble vitamins, including thiamine, should be given for several weeks.
Ultimately, the patient will be advised to follow a lifelong regimen of nutritious eating, with the regular diet supplying 1–2 times the recommended daily allowance of the water-soluble vitamins, including thiamine.
Recovery And Rehabilitation
Recovery from the cardiovascular effects of beriberi is nearly always complete. Some of the neurological problems, however, may remain even after thiamine supplementation has been accomplished.
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