Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: Neurological problems can be ‘irreversible’ warns NHS

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12’s impact on the body is extensive. The list includes helping to make red blood cells, maintain a healthy nervous system and normal psychological function. Low B12 levels can therefore land a hammer blow to the body and some problems can be irreversible.

According to the NHS, a lack of vitamin B12 can cause neurological problems, which affect your nervous system.

“If neurological problems do develop, they may be irreversible,” warns the NHS.

Neurological problems include:

  • Vision problems
  • Memory loss
  • Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • Loss of physical coordination (ataxia), which can affect your whole Body and cause difficulty speaking or walking
  • Damage to parts of the nervous system (peripheral neuropathy), Particularly in the legs.

Some of the most acute problems are neuropsychiatric. A case study documenting a male patient with a two-month history of delirium was published in the journal Hindawi.

A 53-year-old male patient, not known to have any medical illness, was brought to the emergency room by his wife and daughter due to decreased oral intake for three days.

The decreased oral intake was associated with vomiting. The patient had a normal state of health until two months prior to his visit, when he started to develop changes in his behaviour.

According to his wife, the patient became more aggressive, had reduced sleep, had stopped going to work, and became isolated.

He also had hallucinations and episodes of short-term memory loss.

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The above symptoms were accompanied by generalised body weakness, mainly in the lower limbs. The body weakness was associated with pain; the patient became wheelchair-bound.

During the last two months, the patient visited many physicians, but no definite diagnosis was determined.

Upon further examination, it was determined the male patient has vitamin B12 deficiency.

His initial course of antipsychotic medication resulted in “no improvement”.

However, the patient had a “remarkable” response to vitamin B12 replacement, and all antipsychotic medications were stopped, the case study states.

Are you at risk?

Holland and Barrett explains: “Vitamin B12 is only naturally found in animal products such as meat and dairy, so vegans and vegetarians are at risk of low intakes.”

The richest sources of B12 are animal-based, including:

  • Meat and liver
  • Fish
  • Clams
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Eggs.

According to Holland and Barrett, older people and others who don’t produce enough stomach acid to absorb B12 properly, may also be at risk of deficiency.

The treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what’s causing the condition. Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin.

“At first, you’ll have these injections every other day for two weeks or until your symptoms have started improving,” explains the NHS.

The health body adds: “Your GP or nurse will give the injections.”

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