Thiamine Deficiency in Alcoholism

Thiamine Deficiency in Alcoholism

Thiamine Deficiency in Alcoholism

Thiamine, another name for vitamin B1, is an essential micronutrient. It serves the body's function by converting food's energy into fuel for the nerve cells, brain, and cardiovascular system. Apart from lipids and proteins, thiamine is essential for the body to metabolize carbohydrates like sugars and starches.

Thiamine deficiency in alcoholics is common. Heavy alcohol drinking can lead to nutritional insufficiency and reduced organ and body system function. Chronic alcohol use or alcoholism can cause thiamine deficiency, which can have serious medical complications. A lack of thiamine can cause confusion, convulsion, breathing difficulty, neurological condition, unconsciousness, and other medical conditions, including Wernicke's encephalopathy and Korsakoff dementia.

Causes of Thiamine deficiency in alcoholics

Many people have a question about what causes thiamine deficiency in alcoholics. People who drink a lot often do not get enough thiamine for two main reasons:

  • Alcoholics are likelier to get less nutrition and eat foods low in essential vitamins.
  • Too much alcohol makes the stomach lining and GI tract inflamed, which makes it harder for the body to absorb vitamins through the stomach lining.

Signs of a Thiamine Deficiency

Some of the symptoms of thiamine deficiency are:

  • Ataxia:

    Ataxia is a nervous system disease that makes it weak over time. Symptoms include slurred speech, stumbling, falling, and poor coordination.
  • Confusion:

    You might not be able to think or explain in a clear, concise form.
  • Nystagmus:

    Nystagmus is a vision problem in which the eyes move in the same way over and over again.
  • Irritability:

    It is possible to experience feelings of frustration or anger, frequently over seemingly insignificant matters.
  • Seizure:

    Seizures are electrical bursts between brain cells (also known as neurons or nerve cells) that result in abnormal muscle tone or movement for a brief period (e.g. stiffness, twitching, or limpness).
  • Papilledema:

    Papilledema is a severe medical condition in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye swells.
  • Loss of short-term memory:

    You have difficulty remembering recent events in this condition.
  • Tachycardia:

    This condition is characterised by an abnormally rapid heartbeat, which may be regular or irregular, but is unrelated to the patient's age or level of exertion.
  • Mood shifts:

    Mood swings mean that your mood changes quickly. The term may refer to daily mood fluctuations that are either minor or significant.
  • Oedema:

    Oedema is a condition that causes puffiness due to excess fluid accumulating in the body's tissues.
  • Dyspnoea:

    Patients with this condition have difficulty in breathing.
  • Polyneuropathy of the sensory and motor nerves:

    This disease is a systemic process that affects the whole body and hurts nerve cells, nerve fibres, and nerve coverings. Injury to the protective layer of the nerve cell slows or stops nerve signals.

Possible Problems of a Thiamine Deficiency

In case of severe thiamine deficiency, the patients may experience the following complications:

  • The heart's strength to pump blood gets worse over time.
  • Coma
  • Brain disorders
  • Heart failure
  • Permanent nerve damage, which could make it hard to feel things
  • Psychosis
  • Worsened diabetic neuropathy

In some cases, not getting enough thiamine can be deadly. Call the doctor if you or someone with you has any of the following signs:


Therapy aims to manage thiamine deficiency symptoms and keep them from getting worse. However, some individuals may need to stay in the hospital to help control their symptoms.

If the individual meets any of the following criteria, monitoring and additional care may be necessary:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Sleepy
  • Comatose

A quick injection of vitamin B1 into a vein or muscle is the most common method of administering this vitamin. It might help manage:

  • Confusion or delirium
  • Problems with seeing and moving the eyes
  • Lack of muscle coordination

Most of the time, vitamin B1 supplementation may not manage Korsakoff syndrome symptoms like memory loss and mental decline.

If you stop drinking, you can prevent more brain and nerve damage. A healthy, well-balanced diet can help, but it cannot replace quitting drinking.


Rohit Jain

Rohit Jain is an IPR Specialist and Medical Content Writing Expert. For over a decade, he has written several articles in the areas of female infertility, Erectile dysfunction, hemangioma, cervical cancer, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, mononucleosis, mitral valve disorder, nerve sheath tumor, shin splints, mild cognitive impairment, cellulitis, brain metastases, atelectasis, MCAD deficiency, lymphoma, sepsis, cardiac rehabilitation and metabolic disorder among others.