Without vitamin B-1, also called thiamine, you open yourself up to serious illness. Vitamin B-1 produces the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which makes energy within your body's cells. If you fall into a risk group, your doctor should test you to make sure that your levels remain within a certain range.
Where do I get vitamin B-1 and who is at risk?
Most people get this vitamin from food, multivitamins and individual supplements. Because of this, thiamine deficiencies do not happen often in the healthy adults living in developed countries such as the United States. Not all adults are healthy; however, and if you suffer from one of the following conditions, your risk of deficiency further threatens your health:
- Crohn's disease
- Kidney failure requiring dialysis
- Congestive heart failure requiring loop diuretics
If your doctor prescribes certain medications, such as phenytoin or digoxin, for you, take care that you ingest enough thiamine.
What happens if I fail to get enough vitamin B-1?
A chronic deficiency of thiamine causes the following medical conditions:
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
If your blood contains an excess of pyruvic acid, you develop beriberi, which affects the following in your body:
- Eye movement
- Heart function
Two separate, yet related, illnesses make up Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The first, Wernicke's disease, causes you to:
- Lose control of your muscles
- Suffer from visual impairments
- Experience declines in your mental functions
Wernicke's disease affects your nervous system. This condition becomes Korsakoff syndrome if left untreated and will affect your memory functions permanently.
How do doctors treat these conditions?
Vitamin B-1 supplements and injections are all that you need for either condition. Increasing your thiamine levels helps with the muscular and vision issues. Unfortunately, nothing repairs the damage done to your memory if you suffer from Korsakoff syndrome.
The best way to avoid this permanent damage is to make sure your thiamine levels remain within a healthy range. Numerous foods contain vitamin B-1, and companies fortify many whole grains with thiamine as well. If you happen to fall into one of the risk groups, a test performed by your doctor will indicate whether your vitamin B-1 levels fall below safe levels.
The simplicity of the treatment for this deficiency makes it shameful that anyone suffers from it. If a doctor diagnoses you with the more serious Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome caused by a deficiency of thiamine, the question becomes whether your doctor failed you and failed to provide you with the appropriate standard of care.
This syndrome affects your personal and professional lives. In fact, you might never return to work, depending on the extent of the damage done to your brain. An attorney could help you determine whether your doctor committed medical malpractice. If a Texas civil court rules that your care fell below the current, accepted standard of care, it might consider awarding you damages to help with your medical treatment and other needs.