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Beriberi

A nutritional disorder that presents itself from a lack of thiamine (Vitamin B) in the diet.  Thiamine is found in wholemeal cereals, meat, potatoes green vegetables and nuts.  It is essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates.  Brain, muscles and the nerves are not able to function properly Without this.  In developed countries the illness is only seen in people such as alcoholics, who are starving or those who have an extremely restricted diet.

Symptoms and signs

There are two types of the illness “dry” and “wet” beriberi. In the dry beriberi, thiamine deficiency mostly affects the nerves and skeletal muscles.  The symptoms can include a burning sensation in the legs, numbness and muscle wasting.  In extreme cases the affected person becomes virtually paralysed, bedridden and emaciated.

In wet beriberi the main problem is heart failure (reduced ability of the heart to pump blood around the body). This in turn causes oedema (swelling caused by fluid accumulation) in the legs and sometimes also in the face and trunk.  Other symptoms of wet beriberi include rapid pulse, breathlessness and poor appetite.  Without treatment the heart failure can worsen and lead to death.

Treatment

Beriberi is treated with thiamine, administered either orally or by injection, which more often than not brings about a complete cure.  A permanent improvement in the diet is required to prevent reoccurrence.

 

Bernard-Soulier syndrome

A genetic disorder in which platelets (the blood cells responsible for initiating blood clotting) are not able to function properly.  The syndrome is characterised by abnormal bleeding in internal organs and skin.

 

Berry aneurysm

An abnormal swelling that occurs at the junction of arteries supplying the brain.  Berry aneurysms are often due to congenital (present at birth) weakness in the artery wall.  They can occasionally rupture, which results in a subarachnoid haemorrhage. 

 

Berylliosis

An occupational disease created by the inhalation of fumes or dust containing the metallic element beryllium.  Small exposure to higher concentration of beryllium can lead to an episode of extreme pneumonitis (lung inflammation).  Exposure over a number of years to lower concentrations can lead to permanent liver and lung damage.

Corticosteroid drugs is often the treatment that is given.  This can reduce damage to the lungs.  In the majority of cases, the introduction of safe working practices will prevent exposure to dangerous levels of beryllium.


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