Beriberi is a disease in which the body does not have enough thiamine (vitamin b1).
Those people with most risk of getting the disease are alcoholics. Drinking much can lead to poor nutrition and alcohol makes it harder for the body to store thiamine. Beriberi occurs in breast-fed infants when the mother's body is lacking in thiamine. The disease was often found in Asian countries (especially in the 19th century) because those countries believe that polished white rice was a staple food but white rice contains very low thiamine because the thiamin has been removed. A rare condition known as genetic beriberi is passed down through families. People with genetic beriberi lose the ability to absorb thiamine from foods.
There are different types of Beriberi. Dry beriberi causes wasting and partial paralysis. Wet beriberi affects the heart; it is sometimes fatal. Infantile beriberi is commonly found in children. Obvious symptoms are crying, but not loudly and without tears. Without treatment, it can prove fatal within 24 hours.
- Symptoms for wet beriberi are:
• Difficulty walking
• Loss of feeling (sensation) in hands and feet
• Loss of muscle function or paralysis of the lower legs • Mental confusion/speech difficulties
• Strange eye movements (nystagmus)
- Symptoms for dry beriberi are:
• Awakening at night short of breath
• Increased heart rate
• Shortness of breath with activity
• Swelling of the lower legs
• Shortness of breathing after activity
In the treatment they replace the thiamine that the body is lacking. The treatment is either in tablet or injection which means putting liquid into the body. If they don’t have thiamine supplements, they fed there patients with thiamin-rich diet (example; Brown bread) which will of course lead to recovery but at a much slower rate.