Beriberi

Several conditions described in the Korean medical texts suggest a long familiarity with beriberi, also known as "kakke." Symptoms described under this heading included swelling of the lower limbs, followed by swelling of the heart and stomach and difficulty in urination, weakness in the feet, dizziness in the head and eyes, and so forth.

Although it is likely that beriberi existed in Korea since very ancient times, true beriberi was probably not distinguished from the various forms of neuritis, heart disease, rheumatism, and other forms of malnutrition. According to the Hyangyak chipsong pang, beriberi was due to the "wind poison" generated by wind, cold, hot, and dampness. Later medical texts attributed the disease to "water dampness." Beriberi was most likely to have appeared during times of famine, but otherwise the disease was probably somewhat rare in Korea, even during the latter Yi period, because few people depended on polished white rice.

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