Vitamin B12 deficiency: The sign in your hands and feet you are lacking the vitamin
Vitamin B12 deficiency has many causes, but pernicious anaemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK. Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack body’s healthy cells in the stomach. The exact cause of pernicious anaemia is unknown, but women around 60 years of age, people with a family history of the condition and those with another autoimmune condition, such as Addison’s disease or vitiligo are more prone to developing the deficiency, states the NHS.
The symptoms vary depending on the severity of the deficiency. Some are more acute than others.
One easy sign to spot is pins and needles in your hands and feet.
According to Bupa, this is known as vitamin B12 neuropathy: “It may affect your movement and sensation, especially in your legs, cause numbness or pins and needles and decrease your sensitivity to touch, vibration or pain.”
Other symptoms include:
- Pale yellow tinge to your skin
- A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
- Mouth ulcers
- Changes in the way that you walk and move around
- Disturbed vision
- Changes in the way you think, feel and behave
- A decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement (dementia)
The NHS recommends seeing a GP if any of these symptoms appear.
If you have pernicious anaemia, you’ll need to have injections for the rest of your life
How do you treat pernicious anaemia?
The body doesn’t naturally produce B12 so the vitamin must be topped up. According to Bupa, the usual treatment involves a course of injections: “If you have pernicious anaemia, you’ll need to have injections for the rest of your life.”
Other causes of vitamin B12 deficiency
There are several ways in which people can develop a vitamin B12 deficiency. An unsufficient diet is one of the main triggers.
“Vitamin B12 is found only in foods that are animal based with the exception of seaweed (Laver Bread in Wales and Nori in Japan),” says the Pernicious Anaemia Society.
It adds: “Consequently,Those who exclude meat from their diet but do eat fish and dairy will be much less at risk of developing a deficiency because dairy products make B12 ‘more bioavailable’”.
Other potential causes include:
- Certain conditions affecting the stomach and intestines can prevent the absorption of enough vitamin B12.
- Some types of medicine can reduce the stock of body’s B12 supply
Diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency typically involves blood tests and discussing symptoms with GP.
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