Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, responsible for the production of red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, but are unable to do so properly if there are too few of them or if they are abnormally formed. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause red blood cells to become abnormally large, which can disrupt their ability to carry oxygen. When this happens, a range of symptoms can develop, some of which can be fairly minor, but others can be much more severe.
If you notice symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s essential to get the condition treated, as symptoms can lead to irreversible health complications if not.
It’s usually easy to treat vitamin B12 deficiency, so getting a diagnosis is paramount in order to prevent complications from occurring.
One symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency which can lead to severe complications if left untreated is pins and needles.
Most people experience pins and needles at some point in their lives – a feeling of prickling, tingling or numbness on the skin, most commonly in the hands, feet, arms and legs.
Pins and needles happen when the blood supply to the nerves is cut off, and can commonly occur when you sit or sleep on your hands, feet, arms and legs.
Pins and needles usually only last a few minutes, stopping when the weight is taken off the affected body part and the blood supply returns to the nerves.
However, the NHS advises seeing a GP if you constantly have pins and needles, or find they keep coming back.
This is because pins and needles can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, or other health problems like sciatica or multiple sclerosis.
Pins and needles related to vitamin B12 deficiency can signify nerve damage, which can be irreversible if left untreated.
According to medical website Healthline, vitamin B12 is an important contributor to the metabolic pathway that produces the fatty substance myelin.
Myelin surrounds the nerves as a form of protection and insulation. Without B12, myelin is produced differently, and the nervous system isn’t able to function properly.
“One of the more serious side effects of a long-term B12 deficiency is nerve damage,” said Healthline.
“One common sign of this happening is paresthesia, or the sensation of pins and needles.”
“If neurological problems do develop, they may be irreversible,” warned the NHS.
“See your GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.
“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”