'It started in my feet - then my B12 deficiency interfered with my ability to drive and remember things'

Composite image of man holding his foot and man holding his head behind the wheel of his car

A healthy 56-year-old started getting numbness in the balls of his feet and then B12 deficiency interfered with his driving

Getty Images
Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 01/03/2024

- 15:34

The effects of B12 deficiency are wide-ranging but medical understanding lags behind

A healthy 56-year-old man went through months of hell due to B12 deficiency.

His story highlights how quickly B12 deficiency can become overwhelming and the importance of finding effective treatments to restore a sense of normality back to people's lives.

Unfortunately, it's hard to diagnose B12 deficiency as the symptoms are often vague and non-specific. This delays patients from getting the treatments they need.

These crucial delays can be devastating: B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage if left untreated.

Person cleaning up spilt drink

He began to lose motor control of his hands

Getty Images

A case study published in The American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science makes this point in a different way: by showing you the effectiveness of intervening quickly.

A previously healthy 56-year-old white man was admitted to hospital with progressive neuropathy (nerve damage in the extremities) and declining mental status over several months.

The patient initially developed numbness of his fingertips and the balls of his feet and began to lose motor control of his hands, which manifested as dropping objects or flinging them as he tried to pick them up.

As symptoms progressed, he had visual tracking problems that were severe enough to interfere with driving a car, and he developed short-term memory loss and slowing of cognitive function.

After he presented with symptoms, a diagnosis of B12 deficiency was made.

The patient was then treated with a series of B12 injections, which resulted in "rapid" improvement of his symptoms.

The case study authors concluded that "B12 therapy reversed his most severe neurological symptoms", adding that the reason for his deficiency is still unknown, so "he will continue to receive B12 supplementation indefinitely".
Most people with B12 deficiency can be easily treated with injections or tablets.

Person getting vaccineHydroxocobalamin is a manufactured version of vitamin B12 that alleviates symptoms and corrects the vitamin deficiency GETTY

"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," says the NHS.

The health body continues: "Although it's less common, people with vitamin B12 deficiency caused by a prolonged poor diet may be advised to stop taking the tablets once their vitamin B12 levels have returned to normal and their diet has improved."

Good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Meat
  • Salmon and cod
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Eggs

You may like