Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: Three sensations in your feet that could signal low B12

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

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Vitamin B12 makes many important contributions to the body but one of the most crucial is supporting the nervous system. The nervous system is a complex collection of nerves and specialised cells that transmit signals between different parts of the body. If you have low B12 levels, the region responsible for sensory functions can come under attack.

When this happens, you may notice a number of unsettling sensations in your extremities.

According to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, this can lead to pain, numbness, and tingling in hands or feet.

Other telltale signs include:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Sensory loss
  • Weakness.

How to respond

According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.

“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” explains the health body.

It’s important for vitamin B12 to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

“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.”


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What causes B12 deficiency?

There are two primary causes of B12 deficiency – pernicious anaemia and diet.

Pernicious anaemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK.

Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune condition whereby your immune system attacks the cells in your stomach that produce the intrinsic factor, a protein that your body produces to absorb vitamin B12.

Some people can develop a vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of not getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet.

People adhering strictly to a vegan or vegetarian diet are at a higher risk of B12 deficiency than meat eaters.

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified.

You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following:

  • Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12.
  • Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12.
  • Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.

How to replenish low B12 levels

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.

“To ensure your treatment is working, you may need to have further blood tests,” adds the NHS.

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