'I have battled B12 deficiency symptoms for twenty years and it started with a burning sensation in my foot'

Composite image of a foot and man holding his head in pain

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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 01/05/2024

- 12:34

Updated: 02/05/2024

- 09:19

Patient stories paint a harrowing picture about a health emergency that remains woefully under the radar

A patient has revealed how their first symptom of B12 deficiency marked the beginning of a decades-long ordeal. The sufferer's story speaks to the persistent nature of a problem that's fiendishly difficult to treat.

"I was pretty 'healthy' as far as illnesses and diseases went, but one day my foot began to burn a bit," the unnamed user wrote on Reddit. "It never returned to normal."

Person holding their foot in pain

The patient says his foot 'never returned to normal'

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This was not the end of the story but the beginning as "more symptoms popped up over the next 10 to 20 years", they wrote.

The patient's complaint is a familiar one. Another patient revealed how she was diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency in 2019 and "never got proper treatment".

Writing in the patient community Mayo Clinic Connect, she describes how a "burning and tingling" sensation in her feet still keeps her up at night.

She also suffers from "extreme brain fog and cognitive impairment".

What explains this symptom?

Foot trouble caused by B12 deficiency usually signals damage to parts of the nervous system, or peripheral neuropathy.

B12 supports the integrity of the nervous system so failing short of it compromises the complex network.

Other neurological problems include:

  • Vision problems
  • Memory loss
  • Pins and needles
  • Loss of physical co-ordination (ataxia), which can affect your whole body and cause difficulty speaking or walking

If neurological problems do develop, they can sometimes be irreversible.

Person scrunching up their toes

If neurological problems do develop, they can sometimes be irreversible

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It's therefore crucial to get treated with B12 tablets or injections as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Data from a review of patient experiences and surveys involving more than 2200 patients with B12 deficiency in the UK indicate that many patients have concerns related to healthcare quality, safety, and treatment, with nearly two thirds of respondents reporting that their treatment is insufficient to manage symptoms.

Some patients may experience recurrence or worsening of symptoms when the interval between injections is extended or extended too quickly, and report that continuation of frequent intramuscular hydroxocobalamin injections - one of the main treatments is needed to remain asymptomatic.

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