Health

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: Signs include white spots and itchy tongue

Vitamin B12 deficiency is needed to form red blood cells and DNA. It also plays a key role in the function and development of brain and nerve cells. Having a vitamin B12 deficiency can therefore impact the body in a number of ways. As symptoms develop gradually, it is easy to overlook borderline symptoms.

Borderline symptoms relate to symptoms that could be related to any number of conditions. However, if a person experiences a wide-range of borderline symptoms, the underlying cause is much more likely to be a B12 deficiency, as the Thyroid Patient Advocacy (TPA) notes.

If the underlying cause of borderline symptoms does turn out to be a B12 deficiency, this is a good sign in some respects. As the TPA explains, it sends a signal that the condition hasn’t advanced into a full-deficiency and is therefore easily treatable.

According to the health platform, borderline symptoms to watch out for include:

Itchy or tingling tongue.

A sudden and unexpected itchy tongue may signal the condition. “This occurs on the edge of the tongue, along one side or the other or at the tip,” explained the TPA.

People may experience an irresistible urge to scratch the tongue on the teeth to stop the itching, says the health body.

“Some individuals experience stinging, pain, or tingling instead of itching,” it added.

White spots in the skin

This is the result of melatonin becoming absent in the affected area, explains the health site. Melatonin is a hormone that controls pigmentation changes. Research has shown that vitamin B12 has a direct influence on melatonin.

According to the TPA, these often occur on the outside of the forearm but may occur in other places. The longer these spots are there, the whiter they get.

As time goes by, the spots become very dry and flaky to the extent that small raw spots of skin may be exposed, it notes.

Sharp stabbing, tingling pain in the palm of one or both hands.

As the health site explained: “This occurs suddenly and for no apparent reason in a spot directly below the ring finger, approximately where the first palm crease is.”

If untreated, a tingling pain may begin to occur along the outside edge of the hand, starting from the wrist, says the health body.

“This pain occurs when the wrist is flexed backward,” it added.

A vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause a loss of sense. 

How to treat a vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin

In some cases, vitamin B12 can be topped up by eating certain foods.

According to Harvard Health, good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Fish, shellfish
  • Liver
  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Fortified nutritional yeast
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Enriched soy or rice mil

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