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Beriberi (Thiamine Deficiency) Treatment & Management

  • Author: Dieu-Thu Nguyen-Khoa, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
Updated: Jul 01, 2016

Approach Considerations

In suspected cases of thiamine deficiency, prompt administration of parenteral thiamine is indicated. The recommended dose is 50 mg given intramuscularly for several days. The duration of therapy depends on the symptoms, and therapy is indicated until all symptoms have disappeared. Maintenance is recommended at 2.5-5 mg per day orally unless a malabsorption syndrome is suspected.

Thiamine, even at high concentrations, is not toxic in a person with normal renal function. No cases of thiamine toxicity have been reported from the use of thiamine at the dosages indicated, even in patients in critical condition.

An optimal method for delivering the needed thiamine in a bioavailable form must be determined for the long-term treatment of each patient. Depending on the cause of the vitamin deficiency, a referral to an alcohol dependency clinic may be needed.

Most outpatient care is targeted at delivering thiamine in a bioavailable form to rehabilitated patients. Clinical follow-up with measurement of thiamine diphosphate activity may be warranted if relapse or noncompliance is suspected.

Support for cardiac function is necessary in cases of wet beriberi, because lack of cardiac function support leads to low-output cardiac failure when the thiamine deficiency is corrected.

Follow-up care until delivery of current pregnancy, intensive care for advanced cardiomyopathy, definitive care for hyperthyroidism, or further workup of intestinal derangement may be warranted in patients with thiamine deficiency.



The level of activity and the presence of a high energy consumption state (eg, hyperthyroidism, pregnancy, lactation, severe disease) increase the daily requirements of thiamine.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Dieu-Thu Nguyen-Khoa, MD, FACP Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Physician Specialist, Department of Primary Care and Community Medicine, ValleyCare Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Dieu-Thu Nguyen-Khoa, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Ginette V Busschots, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Foote Hospital, University of Michigan Medical School

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Phyllis A Vallee, MD Associate Program Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, Henry Ford Hospital

Phyllis A Vallee, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American Medical Association, Michigan State Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Dennis W Cope, MD, FACP Emeritus Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Chief, Department of Internal Medicine, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Dennis W Cope, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Physicians, Society of General Internal Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP Professor of Endocrinology, Director of Training Program, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Strelitz Diabetes and Endocrine Disorders Institute, Department of Internal Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School

Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Physicians, American Diabetes Association, Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Don S Schalch, MD Professor Emeritus, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics

Don S Schalch, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Diabetes Association, American Federation for Medical Research, Central Society for Clinical Research, and Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Salary Employment

Stanley Wallach, MD Executive Director, American College of Nutrition; Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine

Stanley Wallach, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Nutrition, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, American Society for Clinical Investigation, American Society for Clinical Nutrition, American Society for Nutritional Sciences, Association of American Physicians, and Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Beriberi in an adult patient.
Table. Nutritional Needs for Specific Age Groups [9]
Population Age Allowance, mg/day
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs)
Boys 9-13 years 0.9
Men >14 years 1.2
Girls 9-13 years 0.9
Women 14-18 years 1.0
Women >19 years 1.1
Pregnant/lactating women . . . 1.4
Children 1-3 years 0.5
Children 4-8 years 0.6
Adequate Intakes (AIs)
Infant 0-6 months 0.2
Infant 7-12 months 0.3
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