Overview

Type of disease: Rare conditions

Beriberi is a disease from not receiving enough thiamine, or vitamin B-1. There are two types of beriberi: wet beriberi affects the cardiovascular system, while dry beriberi affects the nervous system. Wet beriberi may cause increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and swelling of the lower legs. Dry beriberi can cause difficulty walking, loss of feeling in hands and feet, loss of muscle function in the lower legs, confusion or speech difficulties, pain, tingling, vomiting, and strange eye movements. A diet low in vitamin B-1 is usually to blame for beriberi. Today, beriberi usually occurs in people who abuse alcohol, causing poor nutrition and absorption and storage of the vitamin. In some cases, beriberi is genetic, where a seemingly healthy person with a well-balanced diet cannot absorb or store thiamine. Infants whose breast-feeding mothers are lacking thiamine may also develop beriberi. Thiamine supplements in the form of an injection or vitamin are used to treat both forms of beriberi. With early treatment, patients improve quickly and most symptoms disappear completely.

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