Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: Seven signs you’re deficient in vitamin B12

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

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Feeling tired? A lack of vitamin B12 can leave you feeling sluggish, amongst other symptoms. Here’s how to know if you’re lacking vitamin B12.

Do you ever feel exhausted, like you’re running on empty? It might be low vitamin B12 levels that have you feeling that way.

Vitamin B12 is crucial for your body to function to its full potential.

This vitamin helps your red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body, as well as supporting your nervous system and the production of DNA.

B12 deficiency is widespread in the UK: especially in older people, and those who eat plant-based or vegetarian diets.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in those who eat a mostly plant-based diet because B12 is usually found in animal products like fish, meat and dairy.

However some vegan alternatives like plant-based milk and vegan cheese have extra added B12 to help you reach your recommended daily amount, but the likelihood is you’ll still need a supplement to get you there.

Adults should have 1.5 micrograms of B12 per day.

But how can you spot the common signs of vitamin B12 deficiency?

1 – You look pale or even jaundiced

Because B12 helps your body to produce red blood cells, if you’re not getting enough of it it can leave you looking washed out.

You may even develop a yellow tinge to your skin or your eyes.

2 – You’re tired all the time

By helping your red blood cells to transport oxygen to where it needs to be, your B12 keeps everything moving smoothly and gives you the energy you need to go about your day.

Fatigue is a very common symptom of B12 deficiency.

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3- You get pins and needles often

Everyone gets pins and needles from time to time, but when it becomes a near-constant sensation, it is a common sign of nerve damage.

Nerve damage is one of the most serious consequences of B12 deficiency.

This is because B12 helps your body to produce a substance called myelin, which is a fatty insulation to protect your nerves.

4 – You feel off-balance

Because of the damage B12 deficiency can do to your nervous system, it can affect your balance and coordination, making you more likely to fall over.

5 – You suffer poor oral hygiene

Low levels of vitamin B12 can lead you to suffer frequent mouth ulcers and bleeding gums.

Bleeding gums are a symptom of serious gum diseases, so before jumping to a B12 deficiency diagnosis, go and see your dentist to rule out any dental causes.

You can also develop glossitis, a condition where your tongue becomes inflamed.

Glossitis can make your tongue painful, and even change the way you speak.

6 – You feel dizzy often

A B12 deficiency can lead to developing anaemia, which can leave you feeling breathless and dizzy.

This is because the oxygen is not being carried around your body via your red blood cells as efficiently as it should be.

However, breathlessness and dizziness can both be symptoms of more serious health issues, so you should see a doctor to rule out any other causes.

7 – You get blurred vision

An untreated B12 deficiency can affect your optic nerve, which connects your brain and your eyes, causing your vision to blur.

Although this can be unnerving, it’s usually easily reversible.

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