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Gastrointestinal beriberi: a forme fruste of Wernicke’s encephalopathy?


Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as anorexia, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, are very common in patients with Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE). Mild thiamine deficiency may have only gastrointestinal symptoms. We are reporting two patients with thiamine deficiency who predominantly had gastrointestinal symptoms. Case 1: a 38-year-old man had gastrointestinal problems for about 2–3 years. It gradually became severe. The patient came to the neurology outpatient department for his recent-onset vertigo and headache. Clinical examinations fulfilled Caine’s criteria of WE. Gastrointestinal symptoms responded dramatically to intravenous thiamine. Case 2: a 21-year-old woman developed drug-induced hepatitis and gastritis. Associated nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain progressively increased over the weeks. The patient responded only to intravenous thiamine administration.

We suggest that a suspicion for gastrointestinal beriberi should arise if gastrointestinal symptoms (anorexia, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain) are refractory to the usual therapies.

  • vitamins and supplements
  • medical management
  • neurogastroenterology

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