What is thiamine deficiency?

Thiamine deficiency (beriberi) results when your body does not have enough of the vitamin thiamine. Your body requires thiamine to help it break down different types of sugar. Without enough thiamine, you may experience a variety of symptoms that can be serious. Because many foods are supplemented with thiamine, thiamine deficiency is rare in the United States. However, thiamine deficiency is possible in some people with rare genetic conditions, in people who eat very unbalanced diets, in alcoholics, and in some people with kidney disease.

Thiamine Deficiency Spotlight

Depending on the level of thiamine deficiency, symptoms can vary greatly. There are two primary types of thiamine deficiency: wet beriberi and dry beriberi. Wet beriberi includes symptoms somewhat like those of congestive heart failure (heart failure is a deterioration of the heart’s ability to pump blood), including difficulty breathing and lower leg swelling. Dry beriberi mainly affects nerves and has symptoms that include weakness (loss of strength) and paralysis.

Thiamine deficiency is usually treated with thiamine supplements and by adjustments to your diet or lifestyle that will help prevent a future occurrence. If the condition is discovered early and treated promptly, a full recovery is likely. In cases when thiamine deficiency is untreated or treated late, serious complications are probable.

Seek prompt medical care if you suspect you might have thiamine deficiency or if you have symptoms of thiamine deficiency, including numbness or tingling (possibly accompanied by weakness, clumsiness, confusion, or difficulty thinking) or symptoms of congestive heart failure, such as swelling in your legs and shortness of breath.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of thiamine deficiency?

Thiamine deficiency is associated with a wide variety of symptoms, depending on the type of thiamine deficiency. In one type of deficiency, known as wet beriberi, symptoms are similar to those of congestive heart failure. They include difficulty breathing with exercise or exertion or when lying down, and swelling in the legs. In another type of thiamine deficiency, dry beriberi, symptoms include weakness or paralysis of muscles or limbs, changes in thinking, difficulty sensing vibration, and other nervous system symptoms.... Read more about thiamine deficiencysymptoms

CAUSES

What causes thiamine deficiency?

To function correctly, your body requires the vitamin thiamine. Without enough thiamine, a variety of symptoms can occur, ultimately resulting in death if the deficiency is severe or untreated.... Read more about thiamine deficiencycauses

TREATMENTS

How is thiamine deficiency treated?

The only treatment for thiamine deficiency is thiamine supplementation and changes to any underlying dietary habits that may have caused the deficiency. Thiamine supplementation can be given orally or by injection, depending on the type and cause of thiamine deficiency you have.... Read more about thiamine deficiencytreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Metabolic System