While uncommon, the symptoms of B12 deficiency can be pretty severe. It’s important to be able to identify the symptoms, whether in yourself or someone you know.
About 10 months ago, after being diagnosed and treated for Lyme’s Disease, I was feeling unusually rundown and tired. So, I went to my doctor and he ran a battery of blood tests. The only abnormality that came up was a slight B12 deficiency. I took vitamin B supplements religiously and was retested a few months later. My numbers weren’t completely back to normal, but they were far better than after the first round of blood tests. It seemed as if the supplements did their job, so I stopped taking them.
A few months ago I started feeling really tired again, but more importantly I started experiencing peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet–numbness and a tingling sensation accompanied by extreme sensitivity to pain. I also started questioning whether the myriad of other symptoms I was experiencing were all somehow related…shortness of breath, memory problems, ringing in my ears.
As a registered dietitian, I know neuropathy is serious and so went back to the doctor. Once again he did a battery of blood tests. This time I showed a greater B12 deficiency, which explains the more serious symptoms. After reviewing the list of symptoms, the muddle of odd symptoms I had been complaining about all started to make sense.
It’s important to be able to identify the symptoms and be aware of the causes, both of which are listed below.
Symptoms of B12 Deficiency:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet (check)
- Loss of memory (check)
- Dizziness (check)
- Lack of balance
- Digestive problems (story of my life!)
- Liver enlargement
- Eye problems
- Inflamed tongue
- Breathing difficulties (check)
- Neurological damage
- Tinitus or ringing in the ears (check)
Causes of B12 Deficiency:
- Blind loop syndrome
- Chrohn’s disease
- Postgastrectomy syndrome
- Pernicious anemia
- Atrophic gastritis
- Instrinsic factor deficiency (congenital)
The good thing is B12 deficiency is pretty easy to treat. A mild case can be treated with diet and oral supplementation (see list of B12-rich foods below) and a more severe case can be overcome with supplementation via injections.
- Excellent sources of vitamin B12 include snapper and calf’s liver
- Very good sources include venison, shrimp, scallops, salmon, and beef
- Plant foods containing B12 include sea plants (like kelp), algaes (like blue-green algae), yeasts (like brewer’s yeast), and fermented plant foods (like tempeh, miso, or tofu)
Being my deficiency is on the severe side and I’m experiencing many of the symptoms, I’ve opted for hydroxocobalamin injections – this is a form of B12. I will be receiving weekly injections for four weeks and then monthly injections thereafter. I will also continue to take oral supplements daily and include B12-rich foods in my diet.
My first injection is tomorrow. It may sound crazy, but I’m excited. Not for the needle, but to finally get rid of the nagging symptoms I’ve been experiencing for months and, most importantly, to get my energy back.
The big question that needs to be answered, though, is WHY am I experiencing B12 deficiency. Once I find that out, I can start treating the underlying issue not just the symptoms. What a concept. No doctor has even broached that subject with me.