Human bodies need thiamine -- often called Vitamin B1 -- for a variety of reasons, but mainly for converting food into fuel that the body then uses to produce energy.
Thiamine also strengthens the body's immune system and helps the body withstand stressful conditions. Though relatively rare, thiamine deficiency can lead to a long list of medical problems, some of which can be fatal.
Many doctors and nurses are not fully informed about the risk of thiamine deficiency, and hospital protocol needs to be improved to protect patients.
Thiamine deficiency has been linked to multiple medical conditions and treatments, and if left untreated, thiamine deficiency can lead to permanent brain damage and death. Conditions and treatments associated with Vitamin B1 deficiency include the following:
- Kidney dialysis
- Crohn disease
- Morning sickness
- Heart failure -- particularly for patients who take diuretics (water pills) that can cause the body to flush out too much thiamine
- Liver dysfunction
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome -- a brain disorder resulting from thiamine deficiency. This disease can involve devastating nerve damage, brain injury and memory loss.
More needs to be done to educate medical professionals about recognizing thiamine deficiency.
At Davis & Davis, we are familiar with cases of undiagnosed thiamine deficiency, and in some of our previous posts, we've discussed the need for improved hospital protocol for recognizing and treating this condition.
Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include nausea, irritability, headaches, depression, fatigue, confusion, lack of balance, difficulty breathing, uncontrolled eye movements, abdominal discomfort and swelling or tingling in the extremities.
For a list of the kinds of foods that provide Vitamin B1 -- and for a discussion of the kinds of medical errors that can lead to unrecognized thiamine deficiency -- please see our previous post, "3 Things Texans Should Know About Wernicke's Disease."