What Are the Causes of Thiamine Deficiency?

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It’s a medical condition known by several names, and if not treated promptly, it can be devastating to your health. Thiamine deficiency — also known as Vitamin B1 deficiency and beriberi — is a nutritional deficiency linked to a variety of factors.
Thiamine deficiency can occur before or after a person is admitted for medical treatment, but the risk may be greater for patients who have undergone bariatric surgery or gastrointestinal surgery.
You could become deficient in thiamine by not getting enough of it through your diet. In other cases, pregnancy, lactation, severe liver disease, hyperthyroidism and alcohol dependency can be contributing factors.
Thiamine-rich foods include:

  • Meat, fish and eggs
  • Whole grain foods
  • Milk and milk products
  • Orange juice and tomato juice
  • Nuts, lentils, soybeans and seeds
  • Beets and potatoes
  • Green, leafy vegetables

Surgical patients may also be at a higher risk, and it is important that medical professionals detect and treat thiamine deficiency after surgery — and before it’s too late.
Doctors are trained to recognize thiamine deficiency, but in too many cases, failure to diagnose thiamine deficiency has led to a potentially fatal brain disease called Wernicke’s encephalopathy.
Neurologists say that Wernicke’s encephalopathy is underdiagnosed. The disease is caused by a dangerous lack of thiamine, which the body needs for numerous essential functions.
Tragically, in most cases, severe and permanent disability could have been prevented with a simple and inexpensive shot of Vitamin B1.
At Davis & Davis, we represent victims of Wernicke’s encephalopathy. We have seen how breakdowns in communication between medical professionals have led to failure to treat thiamine deficiency, and the consequences have been devastating for patients.
For more on these matters, please see our overview of medical malpractice in Texas.