Knowledge about Beriberi Disease – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Beriberi is a disease that can arise when a person has a thiamine deficiency or vitamin B-1. A significant gap in this nutrient can generate long-lasting damage in the nervous system and heart.
The word beriberi comes from a Sinhalese word meaning “extreme weakness,” as it can create severe and even fatal symptoms. Part of what causes beriberi is dangerous that thiamine does not take a long time to deplete in the body. In people with a deficiency, it is possible to deplete thiamine stores in the body in as little as two to three weeks trusted Source.

Types of Beriberi

1) Wet beriberi: It mainly targets the cardiovascular system, making poor circulation and fluid buildup in the tissues.
2) Dry beriberi: It initially hits the nervous system, leading to the degeneration of the nerves. Degeneration typically starts in the legs and arms and may generate muscle atrophy and loss of reflexes.

Symptoms of Beriberi 

The symptoms of beriberi may differ based on their type.
Symptoms of wet beriberi contain:

1) Frequent heart rate
2) Severe lack of energy or constant fatigue
3) shortness of breath
4) waking at night due to shortness of breath
5) swelling in the legs and feet

Symptoms of dry beriberi consist:

1) general pain and body aches
2) vomiting
3) difficulty in walking
4) confusion
5) numbness in the hands or feet
6) paralysis in the lower legs

In rare, extreme cases of deficiency, beriberi may generate a situation known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This syndrome is a form of brain damage resulting from severe thiamine deficiency.

Beriberi Caused by

The leading cause of beriberi is either a diet low in thiamine or a complication that limits the ability of the body to process thiamine. Beriberi is rare in developed countries. In the United States, many foods that people eat daily, like bread and cereals, are fortified with thiamine. Eating these foods should be sufficient to prevent a deficiency in most cases.
In developed countries with easy access to these foods, the leading cause of beriberi is alcohol misuse.
The Department of Health & Human Services suspects that 80% of people who consume alcohol will promote thiamine deficiency. Alcohol creates it more robust for the body to process and absorb thiamine. Babies may also create beriberi if the breast milk that they drink is a lack of thiamine or if they only drink formula without this vitamin.
Although most cases happen with no known family link, a rare situation referred to genetic beriberi can block the body’s ability to intake the vitamin from foods. Other people who may have a higher risk of beriberi include:

1) older adults
2) diabetes people
3) people with HIV
4) people who have had bariatric surgery

Diagnosis of Beriberi 

Doctors depend on both blood and urine tests to take the measure of the levels of thiamine in a person’s blood flow to diagnose beriberi. He or She will also do a physical exam to monitor for signs of other neurological injuries or issues with the heart. Symptoms of neurological damage can include difficulty walking or staying balanced, lack of coordination, and weak reflexes. Neurological damage may be the diagnosis of Beriberi. The doctor will also examine a person’s heart rate and breathing rate and look for swelling in the lower limbs, which can trigger heart problems. Heart disease analysis is one of the diagnoses of Beriberi.

Beriberi Treatment

The goal of treatment for beriberi is to develop thiamine levels in the body. Doctors may need advice oral supplements or injections to provide this thiamine, based on a person’s overall health. They may also advice taking other supplements to support  beriberi treatment
During treatment, doctors may also follow regular blood tests to monitor the person’s thiamine levels until they come back to normal. A person might require to continue consuming thiamine supplements at a lower dosage or make changes to their diet following treatment of beriberi to confirm that beriberi does not revive. A doctor may also treat any problems that occur from beriberi, like lasting nerve or heart damage.
With early treatment, injury to the heart and nervous system due to beriberi may be reversible. If a person has a prolonged deficiency, some symptoms may recover even after treatment of beriberi

Prevention of Beriberi

Preventing beriberi needs a person to intake sufficient thiamine in their diet. Typically, a person who consumes a healthful, balanced diet with an aim on whole foods will not need to worry about thiamine deficiency. Foods that naturally contain thiamine consist:

1) meat
2) nuts and seeds
3) beans and legumes
4) seafood
5) dairy products

There are also many foods, like bread, breakfast cereals, and baked goods that manufacturers fortify with vitamins, including thiamine, are the prevention of beriberi.

Updated: December 4, 2019 — 12:44 pm

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