'My toes told me something was seriously wrong - then my B12 deficiency went downhill fast'

Composite image of a person's toes and their head spinning

Toe pain quickly escalated into a hellish nightmare for one B12 sufferer

Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 28/03/2024

- 13:56

Updated: 28/03/2024

- 14:00

A person suffering from B12 deficiency bravely shares their story in the hopes that it will empower others to come forward and get tested

Anyone unaware of the horrors of B12 deficiency should read the following testimony.

A Reddit user has revealed their symptoms, which went from mild to extreme in a matter of months.

"The first signs something was really wrong were over this past summer when I had noticed that my feet were starting to go numb — mostly at my big toe," they wrote.

The user had low energy all the time, but just assumed it was due to a sedentary job and ageing - they'd just turned 30.

They had noticeable hyperpigmentation on their cheeks and toes but assumed it was all the sun exposure. Then came the week-long battles with a breakout of mouth ulcers.

"We're talking four to six of these bad boys at a time with scalloped tongue. They'd go away after two weeks only to return again. All the while my oral health routine had never been more thorough."

Man holding his face in pain

The B12 sufferer experiences a weekly breakout of mouth ulcers

Getty Images

The sufferer took a week off work to visit their family and recuperate. It was during this break that they woke up one morning to find their hands were numb— which was "very unusual".

"My handwriting then became unreadable and I was dropping things all the time as my sense of pressure diminished."

The Reddit user continued: "Things went downhill fast from there. I was getting really depressed and delusional, thinking that people were plotting against me. I would get really bad and constant muscle cramps when I'd try to sleep, and food was becoming less interesting to me."

The numbness had intensified in their hands and feet, and had progressed up their thighs and arms. They were also noticing a slight loss of control over their bowel and bladder.

"The sensitivity to cold was all but unbearable as winter was rolling in and then the insomnia set in. At this point it was a struggle to walk on my feet which felt sort of like when you squish a cotton ball with your hand. The joints in my fingers and my cheeks were also turning really dark."

Then insomnia set in. This went on for about three months as doctors failed to determine what was causing the patient's hellish symptoms.

Then came the diagnosis that put them on a path to recovery. After a blood test picked up B12 deficiency, they were prescribed a course of B12 supplements.

"Supplementing B12 sublingually [situated or applied on the tongue] twice a day seemed hopeless at first, but I started noticing small improvements in my mobility after the first month and really noticed a huge difference in the quality of my sleep," they wrote.

They are now managing to work four miles a day and "almost all symptoms have reversed except for some minor, painless tingling in my fingertips and big toe".

Vaccine being injectedMost people can be easily treated with B12 injections or tablets, claims the NHSPA

They also have less anxiety in general than before and have regained interest in hobbies and activities.

"Almost makes me wonder how much of my life my levels have been touching on the low end," the user added.

What is B12 and why is it important?

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep your body's blood and nerve cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all of your cells.

B12 deficiency can have debilitating effects yet doctors often fail to diagnose it initially. That's because symptoms are non-specific.

The treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what's causing the condition. Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.

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