Vitamin B-12 plays a role in driving several important biochemical reactions in your body, including reactions required for the function of your nervous system. A deficiency in vitamin B-12 can cause several health problems, including permanent nerve damage. Nerve damage resulting from a vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause symptoms that include a burning sensation in the hands or feet. If you suspect you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency, you should consult your doctor.
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With long-term vitamin B-12 deficiency, the nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body begin to suffer damage resulting in a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. As these nerves become damaged, they can either stop functioning, which results in a feeling of numbness or malfunction, and send incorrect signals to the brain. This results in unusual sensations, such as burning or tingling. These symptoms usually develop first in the longest nerves in the body -- the nerves leading to the feet and the hands.
Additional Neurological Symptoms
Left untreated, the nerve damage resulting from a vitamin B-12 deficiency can worsen, and the burning or numbness can spread up the arms and legs. In some cases, nerve damage can cause a loss of coordination and balance, resulting in difficulty walking and performing other physical activities. In severe cases, confusion and memory problems may develop, eventually leading to dementia. vision loss and depression.
A specific type of anemia, known as megaloblastic anemia, may also occur with vitamin B-12 deficiency. Without vitamin B-12, your body cannot make new DNA, a crucial step for cellular reproduction. The rapidly growing cells in bone marrow that continuously make new red blood cells, become the first victims of vitamin B-12 deficiency. If you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency, your bone marrow produces deformed red blood cells that cannot carry enough oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Anemia resulting from a vitamin B-12 deficiency affects muscle function. All your muscles need oxygen in order to function properly. Because anemia decreases oxygen delivery throughout your body, it can cause extreme fatigue and weakness. Anemia can cause lightheadedness and shortness of breath, particularly during physical exertion. Constipation or diarrhea may also result, as well as appetite loss and unintended weight loss. Some people with anemia develop very pale skin, bleeding gums and a red, swollen tongue.