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Classification & external resources
A sufferer - Turn of the 20th Century in southeast Asia
ICD-10 E51.1
ICD-9 265.0
DiseasesDB 14107
eMedicine ped/229  med/221
MeSH D001602

Beriberi is a nervous system ailment caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency.



The origin of the word is from a Sinhalese phrase meaning "I cannot, I cannot", the word being doubled for emphasis.[1]


Beriberi is caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1). It is common in people whose diet consists mainly of polished white rice, which is very low in thiamine because the thiamine-bearing husk has been removed. It is also seen in chronic alcoholics with an inadequate diet, as well as being a rare side effect of gastric bypass surgery. If a baby is mainly fed on the milk of a mother who suffers from thiamine deficiency then that child may develop beriberi.

The disease has been seen traditionally in people in Asian countries (especially in the 19th century and before), due to those countries' reliance on white rice as a staple food.

Symptoms and effects

Its symptoms include weight loss, emotional disturbances, impaired sensory perception (Wernicke's encephalopathy), weakness and pain in the limbs, and periods of irregular heart rate. Edema (swelling of bodily tissues) is common. In advanced cases, the disease may cause heart failure and death.

There are two forms of the disease: wet beriberi and dry beriberi.

  • Wet beriberi affects the heart; it is sometimes fatal, as it causes a combination of heart failure and weakening of the capillary walls, which causes the peripheral tissues to become waterlogged.
  • Dry beriberi causes wasting and partial paralysis resulting from damaged peripheralie nerves. It is also referred to as endemic neuritis.


Treatment is with thiamine hydrochloride, either in tablet form or injection. A rapid and dramatic recovery within hours can be made when this is administered to patients with beriberi, and their health can be transformed within an hour of administration of the treatment. Thiamine occurs naturally in unrefined cereals and fresh foods, particularly fresh meat, legumes, green vegetables, fruit, and milk.

Suggested Web Sites

  • [1]


  1. ^ Beriberi

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Beriberi". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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