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Hidden Deficiency of Vitamin B12

Posted Jan 06 2011 8:00am
Vitamin B12 deficiency, although less common than years ago, is returning as a more common cause of peripheral neuropathy.  Since we see large numbers of patients with neuropathy (both with diabetes and without diabetes), vitamin B12 is becoming something we test more regularly.  Is it the cause of your neuropathy?  Often this vitamin deficiency is hidden and may not present with symptoms for 2-3 years.  That is due to the fact that vitamin B12 has a very long half-life in the body and old stores will cover for a deficiency for up to 2-3 years.

How Do We Get Vitamin B12


Other than supplementation by pill or injection, vitamin B12 is obtained in the diet from foods that come from animals, such as fish and shellfish, meat (animal products such as liver), poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.  It has also become more common in fortified foods such as fortified cerals, energy bars, and soy products. In individuals that avoid animal products, however, supplementation is usually a necessary way to get this essential vitamin.   

Why Does Vitamin B12 Cause Neuropathy?


Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that the body is unable to produce.  It is a key element in the development of the brain, nerves and blood cells.  Without sufficient B12, pernicious anemia can occur and peripheral neuropathy can occur.  In both cases it is caused by an interruption of the development or repair of the nerve cell or blood cell. 

The good news is this neuropathy (an pernicious anemia for that matter) can be resolved with supplementation of Vitamin B12.  This vitamin has also not been found to have toxic effects so it can easily be added as a supplement to possibly improve neuropathy symptoms.  It can also be easily tested through a simple blood test.

Our recommendation would be to get the blood test to determine if this vitamin may be valuable as a possible treatment for you peripheral neuropathy.
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