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Beriberi is a disease of the nervous system caused by a person not getting enough thiamine (vitamin B1) in the diet. Thiamine is needed to break down food such as glucose. It is also found on the membranes of neurons. Symptoms of beriberi include severe lethargy and tiredness. Beriberi may also cause problems that affect the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, muscles, and gastrointestinal systems. It is often found in people with a history of drinking too much alcohol[1] or who don’t eat healthy.[2] There are two kinds of beriberi, wet and dry. Wet beriberi mainly affects the cardiovascular system.[1] Dry beriberi affects the nervous system.[1] There is also a rare type of genetic beriberi.[1] This disease is found in Asia. There, some people only eat white rice. This disease can make it hard for a person to do simple things.[2] It can also cause muscles to get weaker. A person with beriberi may also have heart problems or even death.[2] Most of the time, dry beriberi and wet beriberi take place at the same time in the same person. When this takes place, the victim is likely to only get the symptoms of one beriberi.[3]

Symptoms of dry beriberi[1]

  • Difficulty in walking
  • Loss of feelings in the hands and feet
  • Loss of movement in the legs
  • Mental confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Strange eye movements
  • Tingling feelings on the skin

Symptoms of wet beriberi[1]

  • Waking up short of breath
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Heart rate gets faster
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • The heart gets bigger.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Beriberi." World of Scientific Discovery. Gale, 2007. Student Resources in Context. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
  3. "Beriberi." Karen Ericson, RN. The Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders, Second Edition. Ed. Brigham Narins. Detroit: Gale, 2012. 2 vols.
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