Signs of low vitamin B12 levels

Clipboard - Signs of Low Vitamin B12 Levels
Clipboard – Signs of Low Vitamin B12 Levels

Your signs of low vitamin B12 levels may be different from your friend’s. One reason for this is that signs of low vitamin B12 levels may relate to one or both of two central systems: the nervous system and the circulatory system.

Without enough vitamin B12 the protective myelin sheath on nerves becomes damaged resulting in pain and any number of malfunctions.

While nerve damage is serious, it’s not as easy for doctors to see as enlarged red blood cells from vitamin B12 levels too low to support normal red blood cell division; instead of dividing, the red blood cells keep getting larger with the result they no longer fit through small capillaries and you begin to have numbness.

What complicates matters is that blood abnormalities don’t occur until much lower B12 levels are reached than those needed to cause nervous system abnormalities. This means that while doctors are relying on enlarged red blood cells as the most visible sign of “vitamin B12 deficiency,” easily obtained with a simple blood test, they often overlook or ignore the less visible signs related to nerves impacted by inadequate vitamin B12 levels, levels too low to support healthy nerves but not yet low enough to cause the enlarged red blood cells that have long been used to define “vitamin B12 deficiency.” It is for this reason that I think “low vitamin B12 levels” is a better phrase than “B12 deficiency.”

Because the signs of low vitamin B12 levels and vitamin B12 deficiency vary so greatly the medical community has often concentrated on one symptom and ignored a vast array of others. Many people with severe symptoms of low vitamin B12 levels harming their nervous system get no treatment because their red blood cells show no signs of deficiency. It is for this reason that I often write “low vitamin B12 levels” instead of “vitamin B12 deficiency”

Today, despite compelling vitamin B12 research showing the impact of low B12 levels on nerves, there remains a tendency among healthcare providers to go with the familiar past. That might not be good for you if you have different symptoms than your doctor has long associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.

For example, after I was diagnosed with “profound vitamin B12 deficiency” a different doctor said I could not have vitamin B12 deficiency because I wasn’t vegetarian. For that doctor, the first and most important thing she looked for was a vegetarian diet. Anyone coming to her who wasn’t vegetarian would not have their low vitamin B12 level considered as a possible cause of illness.

While low vitamin B12 levels experienced over a long time appear to inevitably lead to blood disorders, not everyone will have the large blood cells associated with advanced deficiency or the disease of pernicious anemia.
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Methylcobalamin Lozenges 1000 mcg

Because of the wide range and confusing variety of low vitamin B12 symptoms, it is useful to look at your fingernails to see whether they have ridges or are losing their moons. These simple signs show low vitamin B12 levels.

Neurological symptoms

Illustration of nerves branching from spinal cord
Nervous System
  • Numbness in hands and feet
  • Ataxia (irregularity of muscular action)
  • Impaired reflexes
  • Gait disturbances (for instance difficulty walking a straight line)
  • Impaired vibration perception
  • Positive Romberg’s test: closing the eyes increases unsteadiness; indicates loss of proprioceptive control (Proprioceptive: able to receive stimuli from muscles, etc.) Try closing your eyes and turning in a circle – losing your balance indicates low B12
  • Babinski’s sign: Extension of the great toe and abduction of the other toes instead of normal reflex to plantar (sole of foot) stimulation, considered indicative of pyramidal tract involvement. (Pyramidal: anatomy: one of the carpal bones.)
  • Lhermitte’s sign: Sudden electric-like shocks go down spine on flexing head
  • Optic atrophy:wasting away or reduction from degeneration of nerve fibres of optic nerve
  • Impaired vision, blurred vision under stress
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia

Psychiatric symptoms

Illustration of person covered with words as if they are all different thoughts
Psychiatric Experience of Low B12 Levels
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Confusion
  • Irritation
  • Impaired memory and memory loss
  • Dementia
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Personality changes
  • Psychosis: gross impairment in reality testing evidenced by delusions

For a better understanding read Areas of Cognition

Signs of anemia from low vitamin B12

Graphic of many normal red blood cells vs few red blood cells in cases of Anemia
Normal blood cells vs blood cells with anemia
  • Tiredness
  • Apathy
  • Dyspnoea upon exertion: Shortness of breath, difficult or laboured breathing
  • Numbness in hands and/or feet

Other signs

Book cover - It's not all in your head

  • Aversion to meat
  • Impotence
  • Faecal/urinary incontinence
  • Weakness
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Spasticity ~ tight or rigid muscles ~ can interfere w/ walking, talking
  • Exhaustion
  • Low self confidence
  • Infertility
  • Vitiligo: nonpigmented white patches of skin
  • Frequent need to pass water
  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhea ~ Cause and Effect

Jarrow Methyl B12, 5000 mcg, 60 Lozenges

Jarrow Methyl B12 5000 mcg

Vitamin B12 deficiency is often seen in:

Any person with:

  • inadequate nutrition
  • a smoking habit
  • high alcohol consumption
  • coping with significant stress

People complaining of:

  • vertigo
  • asthenia
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of weight
  • impaired memory

People who have had:

  • resection of stomach or ileum
  • stomach surgery
  • anaesthesia with nitrous oxide
  • Adverse reactions to anaesthesia /surgery

People using medicine affecting B12:

  • antacids: Prevacid, Prilosec, Tums, etc.
  • Omeprazole interferes w/B12 absorption from food
  • Metformin: drug used to treat diabetes
  • Solu-Medrol can lower vitamin B12 levels
  • many antidepressants

Patients with Gastrointestinal disease:

  • Atrophy of the mucosa
  • Gluten-induced enteropathy
  • Crohn’s disease

Patients with Autoimmune diseases to include:

  • ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Celiac Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Narcolepsy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hypothyroidism


  • following pregnancy complications
  • who produced an unusually large placenta

People with eating disorders:

  • Anorexia
  • Bulemia

People with marfanoid appearance


Methylcobalamin – Active form of B12

Supplement Facts - Methylcobalamin
Supplement Facts – Methylcobalamin

Vitamin B12, and particularly methylcobalamin, the active for of vitamin B12, has been known to help:

  • ADHD symptoms
  • Memory
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Dyslexia
  • Depth Perception
  • Viewing Color
  • Speech (finding words, apraxia, articulation, etc)
  • Socialization
  • Mood
  • Behavior
  • Sleep Regulation
  • Depression
  • Neurotransmitter function
  • Autoimmune symptoms
  • Chemical Sensitivity
  • Digestion
  • Viral Infections
  • Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia
  • Asthma
  • Irritable bowel
  • Colitis
  • Eye or muscle “twittering”
  • Tinnitus
  • Nail bitting
  • Migraines
  • Visual and auditory processing
  • Modulation of light
  • Night vision
  • Hearing problems ~ Improved ability to process sounds and modulate background noise
  • Nerve regeneration
  • Blocking the effects of ethanol
  • Greatly reduces the desire for alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamines, and possibly other addictive drugs and behavior.

What is a healthy vitamin B12 level?

Treatment ~ You can safely treat low B12 symptoms using Methylcobalamin

As an aside, when you buy through a link on my site you help support my site.

More about Symptoms of B12 deficiency

Initial symptoms of B12 deficiency are easily overlooked. Plus, early symptoms of anemia may be masked by folic acid, or by an iron deficiency. A variety of neuropsychiatric symptoms may be the earliest and easily seen and felt symptoms.

The most common neurological symptoms in low vitamin B12 are paraesthesia (numbness) of the hands and feet, diminished perceptionof vibration and position, absence of reflexes, and unsteady gait and balance — the range of symptoms is broad.

Psychiatric symptoms seen in vitamin B12 deficiency are varied and fall into several different categories: Confusion and memory disturbances are the most common. Depression, with or without psychotic components, and cognitive decline are frequent. Swings in mood and personality changes from low B12, if untreated, may become a psychiatric disease.

Such vague symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are easily overlooked, especially as the serum concentration of vitamin B12 often lies within the reference range. (In the United States the low for the reference range is hundreds of points lower than the more realistic low in Japan and Europe.)

Disorders in the gastrointestinal tract can give rise to a deficiency of vitamin B12, with symptoms being more or less pronounced. Poor mucosal function may also be a cause and may show up with glossitis (a swollen tongue).

The elderly are at great risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Age-related, often asymptomatic atrophic gastritis is common and may be enough to cause a patient to slide slowly into a negative vitamin B12 balance with depleted stores of the vitamin giving rise to dementia. (Because the low in the United States is so low, this slide may go unnoticed for considerable periods of time.)

Infants of vegetarian/vegan mothers are in danger of vitamin B12 deficiency, even though their mothers may not have B12 malabsorption illness and may not show any deficiency symptoms. This is because of the relatively high need for B12 in a rapidly growing child.

Finally, if your fingernails have ridges or you are beginning to lose your moons, please try Methylcobalamin. Keep notes so you can review after you begin to feel better with a reduction in the symptoms you may have found worrying and/or baffling. If you aren’t going to go to your health food store soon, order Methylcobalamin on line.

 In 1997 the lines/ridges on my fingernails were the worst. I was unable to think; things “looked” unclear; things seemed hopeless; I tried to kill myself, and I had such horrible bone pain that it didn’t seem like it would make any difference if I immolated myself because of abuse by IRS. B12 changed all that! Karen Kline

Vitamin B12 and Brain Damage I have found that stress coincides with lower B12 and the accompanying symptoms.

Stress can break you ~ Read more. If you like the scientific side of things, then from the scientific perspective what happens to you when you are under stress is that your telomerase, which is essential for longer telomeres, is decreased. The end result is that stress shortens your telomeres and short telomeres are related to illness and earlier death.

Professor Elissa Epel
Professor Elissa Epel

Emotions, Stress and Rate of Telomere Shortening: Are Our Cells Listening to Us? is a video of a lecture by Elissa Epel who documented the role of stress in telomere shortening. The lecture is excellent because it it’s both scientific and at the same time clear in ordinary language, supported by easy to grasp graphics and examples from studies that relate to a lot of us. Watch the video.

Blaming yourself over and over for events which would be long past, except you keep them uppermost in your mind, is one of the biggest stressors that you face. Yet you can bring yourself into the present and escape the self-blaming ruminations that lead to shortened telomeres so easily, just look at what’s around you and choose something that you’d like to look a lot better.

How I transformed a room and my mind ~ Read more.

Signs of B12 Deficiency
Article Name
Signs of B12 Deficiency
Your signs of vitamin B12 deficiency may be different from your friend's. One reason for this is that the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency may relate to one or both of two central systems: the nervous system and the circulatory system.
Publisher Name
Health Boundaries
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2 Replies to “Signs of low vitamin B12 levels

  1. Hi very interesting. Since Christmas 2014 I have had the most awful cough. Doc said it is asthma, not something I have had before. I have also had wheezing again not what I have experienced before. This comes and goes to the point I can be perfectly OK then in half hours time coughing and wheezing. My chest is clear it is coming from the throat. I started to do some research and discovered Metformin which I take for my type 2 diabetes, depletes the body of Vitamin B12. Coincidently, the doc told me to up the dose at Christmas 2014 from 1 to 2 tablets per day, so although at first, I never connected the two, I am now. Again I have read cough can be a symptom of deficiency but it rarely mentioned. My doctor agreed I could have a blood test to determine state of play and I am awaiting the results. I didn’t know about the ridges in the nails and strangely I do have ridges on two nails on my left hand but no ridges at all on the right hand. As regards seeing the moons I cannot ever remember seeing them at all apart from the ones on my thumbs.

  2. Thank you, Wendy, for the comment.

    I don’t think I’ll add cough as a symptom even though I have had serious coughs at the same time as very low B12 levels.

    I have Metformin listed as a medication that is often seen being used by people who have a B12 deficiency. That, I think is more specific than coughs.

    If you begin using Methylcobalamin sublinguals you’ll feel a difference. It’s a good idea to keep a “Time Line” with notes regarding Methylcobalamin use, B12 levels if you have tests, and symptoms. That way you will be able to see how it works. It’s useful later on to know about how long you will need to wait if stress or something else causes your levels to drop unexpectedly.

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