Thiamine Deficiency

Thiamine Deficiency

Thiamine deficiency, clinically known as beriberi, is a condition caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the body. Thiamine is found in foods like meats, grain, nuts, and legumes. Symptoms can range from mild and hard to recognize to severe, causing damage to the heart, nervous system, and muscles. The condition is often characterized by muscle wasting, confusion, fatigue, and weakness. If thiamine deficiency is not treated it can lead to heart failure and death.


The symptoms of thiamine deficiency can vary from mild to severe. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nervous system disorders, including confusion, disorientation, irritability, memory loss or difficulty understanding speech
  • Heart problems, including abnormal heart rate and abnormal heart rhythms
  • Muscle wasting, especially in the legs and arms
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Diarrhea
  • Low fever


Thiamine deficiency is caused by a lack of vitamin B1, which is found in a variety of foods. It can be caused by an inadequate diet, an impaired ability to absorb nutrients, excess alcohol consumption, or certain health conditions. Thiamine deficiency most commonly affects people with chronic alcohol abuse, people with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS or cancer, people with eating disorders, pregnant women, people who are malnourished, and people on certain drugs like diuretics.


Thiamine deficiency is usually diagnosed with a combination of tests, including blood tests, urine tests, and dietary recalls. Blood tests measure thiamine levels and can also detect other vitamin deficiencies. The urine test can detect levels of thiamine that have been excreted from the body. A dietary recall allows healthcare professionals to get an accurate picture of a person’s dietary intake.


Treatment for thiamine deficiency depends on the severity of the condition. Treatment options may include oral thiamine supplements, intravenous thiamine, or a combination of both. In severe cases, thiamine injections may be necessary. Treatment should be monitored by a healthcare professional to ensure the most effective results.


Thiamine deficiency can be prevented by eating a balanced diet that includes whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish. People who have chronic conditions or take certain medications should have their thiamine levels checked regularly. People who consume large amounts of alcohol should take extra precautions to ensure they are getting enough thiamine.