What is Vitamin B Deficiency?

9 minutes read

Vitamin B has a crucial role in keeping you healthy and safe. Many of your body’s processes require Vitamin B to work optimally. If you don’t absorb enough Vitamin B, your body will not have the correct amount it needs to function properly. When this happens, Vitamin B deficiency can occur, which can cause discomfort like pins and needles in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, dizziness, and forgetfulness. Vitamin B deficiency is easily misdiagnosed or overlooked, but it’s usually treatable, especially if it’s diagnosed early.1-3

Read on to learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of Vitamin B deficiency.

In this article:
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

What Causes Vitamin B Deficiency? 4-6

There are many potential causes of Vitamin B deficiency, so it’s not always possible to pinpoint a single factor. However, some of the most common causes of Vitamin B deficiency include: 

  • Medications or medical treatments: Certain medications or medical treatments, such as those for the treatment of diabetes, can interrupt or prevent the absorption and transport of Vitamin B in the body.

  • Diet: Diets that are insufficient and/or lacking essential B vitamins and other nutrients can cause Vitamin B deficiency by not providing the body with the amount of Vitamin B it needs to function optimally. 

  • Autoimmune diseases: Some autoimmune diseases like pernicious anaemia and Sjogren’s syndrome can interrupt and destroy important cells that help transport and release Vitamin B to the parts of the body where it’s needed. 

  • Low Vitamin B intake: The elderly, people who use alcohol excessively, and vegetarians are particularly at risk for Vitamin B deficiency, as they tend to be malnourished due to their age, lifestyle, and poor dietary intake. 

  • Malabsorption of Vitamin B: People who are suffering from an infection, have had surgery, or have chronic medical conditions are at risk of Vitamin B deficiency due to these conditions preventing the correct absorption of Vitamin B. 

How Vitamin B Deficiency Affects the Nervous System 4-6

To understand how Vitamin B deficiency affects the nervous system, it helps to know a little about the nervous system and how it is structured. 

The nervous system is made up of two main parts: 

  • The central nervous system—the brain and spinal cord 

  • The peripheral nervous system—the network of nerve fibres that send and receive signals between the rest of the body and the central nervous system 

When the nerves that make up the peripheral nervous system are damaged, it can disrupt the transmission of signals. Imagine that your nerve fibres are electrical cables carrying signals all around your body. If the cables are damaged, the flow of electricity is disrupted, or they could even short-circuit. A similar thing can happen to your nerves—this is what causes the symptoms of poor nerve health such as numbness, tingling, pain and muscle weakness.  

Vitamin B deficiency can cause the peripheral nerves to function poorly, which can also disrupt the transmission of signals. 

Vitamin B Deficiency Symptoms 1 2 7 8

Common symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency are: 

  • Muscle weakness 

  • Pins and needles 

  • Numbness 

  • Tingling 

  • Forgetfulness 

  • Feeling moody 

  • Confusion 

  • Feeling down 

Other possible symptoms include: 

  • Muscle cramps 

  • Fatigue 

  • Dizziness 

  • Difficulty walking/climbing stairs 

Diagnosing Poor Nerve Health 9 10

If you suspect you may have poor nerve health, it’s important to see your doctor, who may consider any or all of the following when making a diagnosis: 

  • Duration of the symptoms. Your doctor may ask how the symptoms appear and how long you have been experiencing your symptoms (such as tingling, numbness etc.), whether it develops suddenly and lasts a short time, often only a few days or weeks, or it develops slowly and may worsen over an extended period of time—months to years. 

  • Medical history. If you have diabetes or other conditions associated with poor nerve health, or if you take medicines that are known to affect nerve health, your doctor will likely investigate these as possible underlying causes. 

  • Understand more about your symptoms. Describe your symptoms in detail with your doctor, such as numbness, pins and needles, tingling sensation etc. Indicate where you feel the symptoms, e.g., fingertips or toes, left/right or both sides of your hands or feet. 

  • Sensory test. To understand how you would respond to a stimulus, your doctor may perform a sensory test using simple tools, such as warm or cold feeling, vibration perception, or pin-prick test. 

  • Other laboratory tests. Blood tests and other laboratory tests may be used to help identify the cause of your poor nerve health. If needed, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for more complex tests. 

Complications of Poor Nerve Health 10 12

If nerve damage is left untreated, it can lead to complications, which is why early diagnosis and treatment are so important for nerve health

Possible complications of poor nerve health can include: 

  • Diabetic foot ulcers. Some diabetic patients develop foot ulcers, leading to amputations in severe cases. Diabetes can damage blood vessels, so less blood reaches the feet. Because blood contains the infection-fighting cells, cuts, scratches—or even just blisters caused by badly fitting shoes—can take longer to heal and may develop into ulcers if untreated. 

  • Burns and other injuries. If you can’t feel pain or temperature changes, there’s a risk you could get burned, scalded or otherwise injured without being aware of it. 

  • Falls. Impaired balance and coordination can lead to more frequent falls. 

  • Heart and circulatory problems. Cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (CAN) can damage the nerves that help control heart rate and blood circulation. The most typical symptoms of this kind of neuropathy are being unable to exercise for very long and low blood pressure that causes faintness or dizziness when standing up. 

  • Infection. If you lose some or all of the sensation in parts of your skin, injuries can go unnoticed and become infected without you knowing. It’s important to check any areas that are numb and treat any small injuries before they can get worse. In the most severe cases, an infection could eventually lead to gangrene and the loss of an extremity such as a toe or foot. 

In Short

Warning signs like tingling, numbness, burning sensations, pins and needles and unexplained falls should never be ignored. Vitamin B deficiency and its effects on nerve health are usually treatable or manageable—especially if it’s caught in the early stages. Proper diagnosis and treatment of the causes and symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency can help you live a fuller life and avoid serious complications. 

If symptoms persist, consult your doctor

Talk to your doctor about the Vitamins B1+B6+B12 (NEUROBION®) formulation, dose and duration of treatment that is appropriate for you.

Article Sources

¹ Langan, R.C., & Goodbred, A.J. (2017). Vitamin B12 deficiency: recognition and management. American family physician, 96(6), 384-389.

² Wolffenbuttel, B.H., Wouters, H.J., Heiner-Fokkema, M.R., & van der Klauw, M.M. (2019)The many faces of cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency. Mayo clinic proceedings: innovations, quality & outcomes, 3(2), 200-214.

³ Shipton, M.J., & Thachil, J. (2015). Vitamin B12 deficiency–A 21st century perspective. Clinical Medicine, 15(2), 145.

⁴ Maiese K. Overview of the Nervous System [online]. 2021, Mar [cited 2022, Aug 16]. Available from: URL: https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/biology-of-the-nervous-system/overview-of-the-nervous-system#.

⁵ Rubin M. Overview of the Peripheral Nervous System [online]. 2022, Apr [cited 2022, Aug 16]. Retrieved from: URL: https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/brain,-spinal-cord,-and-nerve-disorders/peripheral-nerve-and-related-disorders/overview-of-the-peripheral-nervous-system.

⁶ Stein, J., Geisel, J., & Obeid, R. (2021). Association between neuropathy and B‐vitamins: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. European Journal of Neurology, 28(6), 2054-2064.

⁷ Hanewinckel, R., Ikram, M.A., & Van Doorn, P.A. (2016). Peripheral neuropathies. Handbook of clinical neurology, 138, 263-282.

⁸ Calderón‐Ospina, C.A., & Nava‐Mesa, M.O. (2020) B Vitamins in the nervous system: Current knowledge of the biochemical modes of action and synergies of thiamine, pyridoxine, and cobalamin. CNS neuroscience & therapeutics, 26(1), 5-13.

⁹ Lehmann, H.C., Wunderlich, G., Fink, G.R., & Sommer, C. (2020). Diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy. Neurological research and practice, 2(1), 1-7.

¹⁰ Hammi, C., & Yeung, B. Neuropathy. (2021). In StatPearls [Internet], StatPearls Publishing.

¹¹ NHS. Complications: Peripheral neuropathy [online]. 2019, Apr 24 [cited 2022, Aug 16]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/complications/.

¹² Mayo Clinic. Peripheral neuropathy [online]. 2022, Aug 11 [cited 2022, Aug 16]. Available from: URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/peripheral-neuropathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352061.

Applicant: P&G South African Trading (Pty) Ltd. Reg. No.: 1989/004241/07. |S1| Neurobion® Tablets. Each tablet contains Vitamin B1 100 mg, Vitamin B6 200 mg and Vitamin B12 200 μg. Reg. No.: H2487 (Act 101/1965).
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