Subst Abus. 2021 Aug 3:1-2. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2021.1915917. Online ahead of print.
Thiamin is an essential vitamin that is involved in every organ system in the body. Thiamin deficiency can present as beriberi or Wernicke’s encephalopathy. We seek to educate practitioners in developed countries to include beriberi on the differential diagnosis when a patient with alcohol use disorder, poor diet and/or disordered eating presents with ascending paralysis without albuminocytologic dissociation. Case: In this case report, a 20-year-old female with no past medical history presented with three weeks of ascending paralysis. At presentation, she could not grasp objects, walk, or rise from a seated position. She reported consuming excessive alcohol and an otherwise limited diet due to picky eating. The patient was ultimately diagnosed with acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy secondary to dry beriberi from severe protein-calorie malnutrition and alcohol use disorder. She received an aggressive thiamin replacement regimen as well as physical and occupational therapy. She was discharged to home 24 days after her initial presentation. Discussion: This patient case offers a unique presentation of ascending paralysis without albuminocytologic dissociation due to severe dry beriberi from a diet of unenriched carbohydrates and excessive alcohol in an otherwise young, healthy adult in the United States. Our goal is that in reviewing the unusual details of this case, providers will be better equipped for the timely diagnosis and treatment of similar cases in the future.
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