Vitamin B12 deficiency: The ‘feeling’ in your feet that’s a sign

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

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Vitamin B12 deficiency, or folate deficiency anaemia, starts off without symptoms. But over time, a range of symptoms including dizziness, hair loss, shortness of breath, and more, can occur at the same time or separately.

Many people with the deficiency will experience a strange sensation in their hands and feet.

Numbness of hands and feet, which may present as a “feeling as if they are ‘asleep’”, is a warning sign of low B12 according to the B12 Institute, an organisation that researches Vitamin B12 deficiency.

The root of the problem comes from the nerve damage caused by a lack of the crucial vitamin.

Vitamin B12 is vital for the healthy development of nerve cells and when it is scarce, the nervous system can become damaged – affecting the connection between your limbs and brain.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can specifically damage the protective layer around the cells which protects them, known as the myelin sheath.

But nerve damage isn’t the only cause of strange sensations in your hands if you have vitamin B12 deficiency.

The condition also causes sensitivity to heat and cold which occurs “especially” in the hands and feet, according to the B12 Institute.

Rather than being a nerve issue, this sensitivity can be caused by a lack of oxygen.


Oxygen is carried around the body by the red blood cells – which vitamin B12 helps to produce.

When vitamin B12 is deficient, the body can’t make healthy red blood cells – which results in cold temperatures.

What are the other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?

The condition causes a long list of symptoms. Some of these can affect your brain.Among the most common of these symptoms include memory loss and lack of concentration.

Roughly 78 percent of people with vitamin B12 deficiency struggle with memory loss issues, suggests a survey from 2014 published in the British Journal of Nursing.

And roughly 75 percent struggle with a lack of concentration while rarer symptoms include aphasia and dizzy spells.

Aphasia – when a person has difficulty with their language or speech – affects roughly 50 percent of patients and dizzy spells affect roughly 59 percent.

These symptoms may come on over several years and are accompanied by many other physical symptoms.

The B12 institute explains: “Sometimes one of the symptoms is clearly manifest, sometimes there are multiple, more or less severe, symptoms. Patients have told us that their condition has been gradually deteriorating over the years.”

Other, general symptoms recognised by the NHS include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)

  • lack of energy (lethargy)

  • feeling faint

  • headaches

  • pale skin

  • noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)

  • hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than from an outside source (tinnitus)

  • loss of appetite and weight loss.

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