Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: Pins and needles might mean you need a trip to the doctor

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

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There’s lots of foods that contain vitamin B12, namely meat, fish, eggs and cheese. Unless you’re vegan, you are probably getting enough from your diet. However, there can be a few reasons why you’re deficient in the vitamin. One of the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency is pins and needles, confirmed the NHS. Known as paraesthesia, it “feels like pricking, tingling or numbness on the skin”.

The NHS explained: “It happens when the blood supply to the nerves is cut off.”

If not enough oxygen is reaching nerves in the extremities, such as the hands and feet, then pins and needles can occur.

A lack of vitamin B12 in the body is a type of anaemia, and symptoms can worsen if left untreated.

For example, mouth ulcers might develop and you might have a sore, red tongue.

Left to go on for too long, and vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia can lead to depression and a decline in mental abilities.

This condition can negatively impact memory, understanding and judgement.

A person may become irritable, and there could be changes to the way they walk and move around.

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia can be diagnosed from a simple blood test.

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There are various reasons why a vitamin B12 deficiency might emerge.

As well as dietary restrictions, one of the most common causes of this condition is from another underlying health condition – pernicious anaemia.

This is an autoimmune disorder whereby the body’s immune system attacks cells in the stomach.

As a result, the stomach cells are unable to produce the protein intrinsic factor.

It’s this protein that normally binds to vitamin B12 so that it can be reabsorbed into the body while digestion occurs.

Without intrinsic factor binding to vitamin B12, it’s lost via the bowels.

That means no matter how much vitamin B12 you eat, it’ll always be lost through the back passage.

To counteract this, the affected person will need a lifetime injection of hydroxocobalamin every two to three months.

Another culprit of a vitamin B12 deficiency is taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

This type of medication is used to treat indigestion, but it can inhibit stomach acid production too effectively.

Stomach acid is needed to release vitamin B12 from the food eaten.

If you’re concerned you may be suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency, do speak to your GP.

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