Vitamin B12 deficiency: Four uncomfortable symptoms occurring in the hands, legs and feet

Vitamin B12 deficiency: Four uncomfortable symptoms occurring in the hands, legs and feet

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

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As many as 20 percent of people are borderline B12 deficient. Those susceptible to a deficiency include strict vegetarians or vegans, because plant foods don’t naturally contain B12; adults over 50, since stomach acid, a key part of B12 absorption, decreases as you age; individuals with gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and Crohn’s disease (a chronic inflammatory bowel disease); and those who have undergone weight loss surgery, which eliminates the part of the stomach that breaks down B12. Certain acid-reducing and diabetes medications can put you at risk as well. When levels are low a number of strange and even uncomfortable sensations may occur particularly in the hands, legs or feet.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency usually develop gradually and can be wide-ranging. 

These may include general symptoms including fatigue and lethargy, as well as the symptoms specific to the deficiency, such as yellow tinge to the skin and a sore tongue.

If left untreated, the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency tend to worsen and irreversible problems involving the nerves and brain may develop.

The risk of experiencing a number of serious complications, including heart failure, may also increase.

If experiencing pins and needles, numbness or other strange sensations in the hands, legs or feet it could indicate your levels are dangerously low with the appropriate treatment urgently required.

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Vitamin B12 deficiency may cause pins and needles in the hands or feet, said Medical News Today.

The health site continued: “This symptom occurs because the vitamin plays a crucial role in the nervous system, and its absence can cause people to develop nerve conduction problems or nerve damage.

“In the nervous system, vitamin B12 helps produce a substance called myelin.

“Myelin is a protective coating that shields the nerves and helps them transmit sensations.

“People who are vitamin B12 deficient may not produce enough myelin to coat their nerves. Without this coating, nerves can become damaged.

“Problems are more common in the nerves in the hands and feet, which are called peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerve damage may lead to tingling in these parts of the body.”

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“Vitamin B12 is needed to help neurons function,” said Dr Sarah Baker, an internist with CHI Memorial Chattanooga Internal Medicine Group.

“When B12 levels are too low, neurons can’t effectively function, which leads to symptoms like numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.”

This numbness or tingling felt is called paraesthesia, and it can become permanent if left untreated.

Nerve damage caused by an insufficient amount of the vitamin can also affect one’s balance and ability to walk.

This too can become permanent if not treated, so it’s important to mention to your doctor if the issue arises.

Paraesthesia describes abnormal burning or prickling sensations that are usually felt in the arms, hands, legs, or feet, but may also occur in other parts of the body.

The sensation is usually painless and may be described as tingling, numbness, skin crawling, or itching. 

Temporary paraesthesia is common and often described as “pins and needles,”

Paraesthesia sensations may be described as tingling, numbness, skin crawling or itching.

Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what’s causing the condition.

If the B12 deficiency is caused by pernicious anaemia, a course of injections is usually recommended.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:



“If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals,” explains the NHS.
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