Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. The body absorbs B12 by eating food, but certain underlying conditions can inhibit your dietary intake of B12. The most common culprit in the UK is pernicious anaemia. When the body lacks in vitamin B12, nerve shock on the side of the body, unsteadiness and a burning sensation in the feet may be felt.
According to the Pernicious Anaemia Society (PAS), one distinctive sign is burning feet, which is also known as Grierson-Gopalan Syndrome.
It happens when low levels of B12 damage nerves in the body’s extremities, such as feet.
Other B12 deficiency anaemia symptoms include:
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Lack of energy (lethargy)
- Feeling faint
- Pale skin
- Hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than from an outside source
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
Different types of blood tests can be arranged by a GP to diagnose a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Blood tests can measure the levels of vitamin B12 in a person’s blood, as well as the levels of folate and to check if the red blood cells are larger than normal.
One limitation of blood tests, however, is that it measures the total amount of vitamin B12 in the blood regardless if it can or can’t be used by the body.
This is why discussing all your symptoms with your GP is imperative in order to make a proper diagnosis.
How much vitamin B12 is needed?
The answer depends on factors such as age, eating habits and medical conditions, and what medications one may be taking.
The average amounts measured in micrograms vary by age. Adults require at least 2.4 msg per day of vitamin B12.
If a person isn’t getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet they may be advised by a GP to eat more foods fortified with vitamin B12 or to take regular supplements.
Vitamin B12 injections may also be recommended, and for those with pernicious anaemia, injections may be required for the rest of their lives.