Symptoms of low vitamin B12 are numerous and varied because they relate to one or both of two central systems in our bodies: the nervous system and the circulatory system. For example, without enough vitamin B12 the protective myelin sheath on our nerves becomes damaged resulting in pain and any number of malfunctions; or it could be that without enough vitamin B12 our red blood cells grow too large to fit into small capillaries, resulting in pain and numbness.
Because symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency vary so greatly the medical community has often concentrated on one symptom and ignored others. The result is that many people with severe symptoms of low B12 get no treatment because they don’t have the symptom popular on a given day, the “symptom d’jour” you might say.
Today when there is more knowledge about vitamin B12 and its symptoms, with compelling research, 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 healthcare provider 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, to see if there might be vitamin B12 deficiency, 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 ill health.
While it appears that a low vitamin B12 level experienced over a long time inevitably leads to blood disorders, not everyone who initially has serious B12 problems will have the large blood cells associated with advanced deficiency or the disease of pernicious anemia.
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 B12.
- 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
- Concentration difficulties
- Impaired memory and memory loss
- Personality changes
- Psychosis: gross impairment in reality testing evidenced by delusions
For a better understanding read Areas of Cognition
Symptoms of anemia from low vitamin B12
- Dyspnoea upon exertion: Shortness of breath, difficult or laboured breathing
- Numbness in hands and/or feet
- Aversion to meat
- Faecal/urinary incontinence
- Loss of muscle strength
- Spasticity ~ tight or rigid muscles ~ can interfere w/ walking, talking
- Low self confidence
- Vitiligo: nonpigmented white patches of skin
- Frequent need to pass water
- Hair loss
- Diarrhea ~ Cause and Effect
Low B12 and deficiency is often seen in:
Any person with:
- inadequate nutrition
- a smoking habit
- high alcohol consumption
- coping with significant stress
People complaining of:
- 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 who use 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
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- following pregnancy complications
- who produced an unusually large placenta
People with eating disorders:
People with marfanoid appearance
Methylcobalamin, the active form of B12, has been known to help:
- ADHD symptoms
- Chronic fatigue
- Depth Perception
- Viewing Color
- Speech (finding words, apraxia, articulation, etc)
- Sleep Regulation
- Neurotransmitter function
- Autoimmune symptoms
- Chemical Sensitivity
- Viral Infections
- Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia
- Irritable bowel
- Eye or muscle “twittering”
- Nail bitting
- 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.
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.
Vitamin B12 and Brain DamageI 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.
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.