Beriberi : Causes, Symptoms, types, treatment of beriberi


Beriberi is the vitamin B1 deficiency disorder specially thiamine deficiency, resulting in neurological disorders. Nervous system, cardiovascular system, and muscular systems are affected by beriberi or Vitamin b1 deficiency. Meaning of beriberi is  “I can’t, I can’t “. Beriberi is common in Southeast Asia where people uses rice with poor thiamine as staple food.

Types of Beriberi

Two main types of Beriberi which are as follows,

Wet Beriberi

Cardiovascular system is affected with wet beriberi

Dry Beriberi

Nervous system is affected with dry beriberi.

Causes of beriberi

Vitamin B1 – thiamine deficiency is the main cause of Beriberi.

Beriberi is common in patients with  alcohol abuse, because excess alcohol consumption leads to poor  nutrition, and absorption of vitamins and minerals  is very less.

People who consumes diet with less with thiamine, i.e. Polished white rice will get beriberi.

Beriberi is common in people who eat white polished rice ( less in thiamine) as staple food.

Beriberi may also seen in patients after Gastric surgeries.

Genetic beriberi is rarely caused and is due to family history or genetic inheritance. Patients with genetic beriberi, intestines fails to absorb thiamine or vitamin B from foods ingested. The symptoms of Genetic beriberi are usually seen during adult age.

Babies who receive less thiamine containing milk from mother can also affected by Beriberi. Formula feeding infants with inadequate thiamine also can suffer from Beriberi.

Dialysis to treat other diseases, and Diuretics can increase the risk of Beriberi.

Symptoms of Beriberi

  • Weight loss,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Emotional disturbances
  • General weakness,
  • vomiting,

Dry beriberi Symptoms

  • Nerve damage,
  • Impaired sensory perception,
  • Partial paralysis,
  • Peripheral neural damage,
  • Loss of sensation in feet and legs,
  • Mental confusion,
  • loss of muscle co-ordination,
  • Pain in the limbs,
  • Tingling,
  • Difficulty in walking,
  • Increased amount of lactic acid and pyruvic acid in blood,

Wet beriberi Symptoms

  • Cardiovascular abnormalities
  • Cardiac failure
  • Congestive cardiac failure, are main symptoms of wet beriberi.
  • Weakening of capillary walls
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Awakening at night with sweating
  • Cardiac symptoms becomes fatal, if not treated
  • If not treated beriberi may lead to death.

Treatment of Beriberi

Thiamine Hydrochloride in tablet form or in injection form is given to treat Beriberi. Even with an hour of treatment with thiamine hydrochloride itself the patient recovers from Beriberi symptoms.

  • High doses of thiamine injection,
  • Unrefined cereals,
  • Fresh foods such as  meat, legumes,
  • Green vegetables, fruits , and milk are provided to treat beriberi with rich thiamine supplement.

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