AskDefine | Define beriberi

Dictionary Definition

beriberi n : avitaminosis caused by lack of thiamine (vitamin B1)

User Contributed Dictionary



From Sinhalese, reduplication of beri, weakness.

Alternative spellings


beriberi (uncountable)
  1. an ailment caused by a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1)

Derived terms


Extensive Definition

Beriberi (pronounced Berry-berry) 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.


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 as well.
The disease was often found in Asian countries (especially in the 19th century and before), due to those countries' reliance on white rice as a staple food. Beriberi is a nutritional disorder caused by deficiency of vitamin B characterized by damage to nerves and heart; general symptoms include loss of appetite and feeling of lassitude.

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. It may also increase the amount of lactic acid and pyruvic acid within the blood.
  • 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 edematous.
  • Dry beriberi causes wasting and partial paralysis resulting from damaged peripheral 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.


Christiaan Eijkman, a Dutch physician and pathologist, first demonstrated that beriberi is caused by poor diet. His work led to the discovery of vitamins. Together with Sir Frederick Hopkins, he was awarded the 1929 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery.



General references

  • Angstadt JD, Bodziner RA: Peripheral polyneuropathy from thiamine deficiency following laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Obes Surg 2005 Jun-Jul; 15(6): 890-2
  • Mouly S, Khuong MA, Cabie A: Beri-Beri and thiamine deficiency in HIV infection [letter]. AIDS 1996 Jul; 10(8): 931-2
  • Shivalkar B, Engelmann I, Carp L: Shoshin syndrome: two case reports representing opposite ends of the same disease spectrum. Acta Cardiol 1998; 53(4): 195-9
  • Weise Prinzo Z, de Benoist B: Meeting the challenges of micronutrient deficiencies in emergency- affected populations. Proc Nutr Soc 2002 May; 61(2):251-7
beriberi in Arabic: بري بري
beriberi in Bulgarian: Бери-бери
beriberi in Danish: Beriberi
beriberi in German: Beriberi
beriberi in Spanish: Beriberi
beriberi in Esperanto: Beribero
beriberi in French: Béribéri
beriberi in Italian: Beriberi
beriberi in Hebrew: בריברי
beriberi in Macedonian: Бери-бери
beriberi in Dutch: Beriberi
beriberi in Japanese: 脚気
beriberi in Norwegian: Beriberi
beriberi in Polish: Beri-beri
beriberi in Portuguese: Beribéri
beriberi in Russian: Бери-бери
beriberi in Slovenian: Beriberi
beriberi in Serbian: Берибери
beriberi in Finnish: Beriberi
beriberi in Swedish: Beriberi
beriberi in Telugu: బెరిబెరి
beriberi in Turkish: Beriberi
beriberi in Ukrainian: Бері-бері
beriberi in Chinese: 脚气病

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Lombardy leprosy, anemia, ariboflavinosis, cachexia, chlorosis, deficiency anemia, dermatitis, goiter, greensickness, keratomalacia, kwashiorkor, maidism, malnutrition, night blindness, osteomalacia, osteoporosis, pellagra, pernicious anemia, protein deficiency, rachitis, rickets, scurvy, struma, vitamin deficiency, xerophthalmia
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1