Man, develops ‘paresthesia’ in fingers due to ‘extreme’ B12 deficiency

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

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Vitamin B12 deficiency supports a number of important processes in the body. Chief among is making red blood cells, helping to maintain a healthy nervous system and normal psychological function. It’s little surprise, then, that low B12 gives rise to a slew of symptoms.

A case report entitled, “Extremely severe vitamin B12 deficiency – case presentation and review of literature”, offers a chilling insight into the effects of low B12.

An 83-year-old man presented with “paresthesia” in his fingers, the case report stated.

Paresthesia refers to a burning or prickling sensation that is usually felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet, but can also occur in other parts of the body.

The sensation, which happens without warning, is usually painless and described as tingling or numbness, skin crawling, or itching.

The 83-year-old was also experiencing:

  • Fatigue
  • Vertigo
  • Intolerance of physical activity
  • Upper abdomen pain
  • Loss of appetite.

Symptoms started two to three months before admission, with progression over time.

On admission, vital parameters were within normal range. Upon further examination, medical practitioners detected low B12 levels.

The patient received injections of B12 to replenish his low levels. In a follow-up period of two years, the patient had no symptoms.

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“We presented patient with extreme deficiency of vitamin B12,” the case study authors concluded.

Why you shouldn’t ignore B12 deficiency symptoms

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a wide range of symptoms. These usually develop gradually, but can worsen if the condition goes untreated.

“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated,” warns the NHS.

“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”

How to treat B12 deficiency

General symptoms include:

  • A pale yellow tinge to your skin
  • A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • Changes in the way that you walk and move around
  • Disturbed vision
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Changes in the way you think, feel and behave
  • A decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement (dementia).

How is B12 deficiency treated?

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.

Food sources of B12

According to Holland and Barrett, vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products such as meat and dairy, so vegans and vegetarians are at risk of low intakes.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products, there are other foods that contain vitamin B12.

According to the NHS, these include yeast extract (including Marmite), as well as some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products.

“People who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life.”

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