'My feet and hands were affected at first - then my B12 deficiency left me housebound and helpless'

Woman holding her foot

A woman became housebound from B12 deficiency after noticing a tingling and burning in her feet

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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 19/02/2024

- 15:45

Updated: 19/02/2024

- 17:02

B12 deficiency barely registers on the radar at first but the cumulative effects can be devastating

It was a day just like any other for Aileen Stoneham, 48, when her feet and hands started playing up.

Little did she know that these subtle changes would mark the beginning of a years-long battle with B12 deficiency.

The effects of B12 deficiency are wide-ranging but often misunderstood.

The vitamin performs several important functions in the body, including keeping the nervous system healthy, so becoming deficient in it can produce an array of general and non-specific symptoms, many of which become progressively debilitating.

Woman gripping her head in pain on her sofa

Aileen's B12 deficiency also gave her a chronic headache

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Aileen decided to share her story in a bid to raise awareness of the symptoms associated with B12 and the treatments available that can correct it.

Initially, she experienced tingling and burning in her fingers and feet.

This was accompanied by:
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Sore mouth
  • Excess saliva
  • Loss of taste
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach problems
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle nails
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Balance problems
"I ended up with time off work, at the time I worked in a nursing home doing shifts. My manager at the time suggested that something major was going on with my health because of all the symptoms," Aileen told the Pernicious Anaemia Society.
She continued: "I ended up being off sick for a few months as the symptoms made me house bound and very sleep deprived."

After being repeatedly "fobbed off" by her local GP, Aileen was referred to a gastroenterologist, who tested her B12 levels. This came back "extremely low".

A haematologist determined that the cause of her B12 deficiency was pernicious anaemia - an autoimmune condition that affects your stomach.

She was immediately put on a course of B12 injections.

"After a few weeks my symptoms started to subside, I could eat soft foods to start with as I still had blistered tongue," the 48-year-old said.

What's more, the tingling in her hands and feet subsided and she was "more confident in moving about as the dizziness subsided a little and my clumsiness subsided a little too".

Person getting vaccine

Hydroxocobalamin is a manufactured version of vitamin B12 that alleviates symptoms and corrects the vitamin deficiency


Aileen now gets a shot of hydroxocobalamin every 12 weeks, which helps keep her symptoms at bay.

Hydroxocobalamin is a manufactured version of the vitamin B12. It's used to treat and prevent vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia, where you have low levels of this vitamin in your body.

"If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be advised to take vitamin B12 tablets every day between meals," adds the NHS.

You can also top your B12 levels by eating more of the following:
  • Meat
  • Salmon and cod
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Eggs

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