Itchy skin can develop for many reasons. It can occur with or without a rash, in small areas or the whole body. Identifying the cause is important to ensure proper treatment. While there are several potential causes of itchy skin, vitamin B12 deficiency has not been directly linked to skin conditions such as eczema. However, vitamin B12 is important to healthy skin and may be a potential eczema treatment.
Itchy skin and vitamin B12 deficiency are not directly linked, but not getting enough of this vital nutrient in your diet may affect skin health.
Vitamin B12 Basics
Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis. A water-soluble vitamin, vitamin B12 plays a key role in metabolizing protein and maintaining the central nervous system.
Your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 depends on your age, gender and current health status. Pregnant or breastfeeding women require higher amounts. On average, the RDA for men and women age 14 and older is 2.4 micrograms daily. To meet your RDA and boost B12 levels, you can consume a variety of animal products, such as beef, poultry, dairy, eggs and shellfish, or take a supplement. Supplemental vitamin B12 is added to most multivitamins, or you can obtain it in standalone tablets, via injections or through a prescription from your doctor.
Read more: Vitamin B12 Benefits and Side Effects
Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Low levels of vitamin B12 might not manifest as itchy skin, but rather as anemia, loss of balance, weakness, and numbness or tingling in the arms and legs. Mild vitamin B12 deficiency may have no symptoms or may cause fatigue, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nervousness, numbness, or tingling sensation in the fingers and toes. Neurological damage can result from severe deficiency.
Vitamin B12 is present only in animal foods and is not synthesized by the body, so if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you are at a greater risk of deficiency. If you suspect you may be vitamin B12 deficient, contact your doctor for an evaluation.
Vitamin B12 for Itchy Skin
While itchy skin and vitamin deficiency are not necessarily linked, topical vitamin B12 and other alternative remedies may be effective for treating eczema. Eczema is a skin condition characterized by an inflamed rash, extreme itching, swelling, redness and blisters that ooze and become crusty.
In addition to topical vitamin B12 for itchy skin, other unconventional eczema treatments include topical Manuka honey, sunflower seed oil, primrose oil and East Indian Sandalwood oil. Be aware that these alternative treatments have not been proven safe or effective and are still undergoing clinical research to assess the possible risks and benefits. Nevertheless, many people with eczema opt to try out nontraditional treatments to gain relief from their symptoms. If you have eczema or suspect you do, work with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
Read more: Reasons for Itching Under Skin
Causes of Itchy Skin
Dry skin is the most common cause of itchy skin without a rash or other skin changes. Other possible causes include irritation and allergic reactions, medications, pregnancy, or skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and hives. In some cases, dry or itchy skin may be an indicator of an internal condition, such as liver disease, celiac disease, kidney failure, iron deficiency or thyroid problems.
Conditions that affect the nervous system, including multiple sclerosis, diabetes, pinched nerves and shingles, can cause itching. Since vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to nerve problems, this may be a potential link if you have itching and are also experiencing neurological problems. Contact your physician if your itching continues for more than two weeks, is extremely uncomfortable, can't be explained or if it affects your entire body.
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin B12"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin B12"
- MedlinePlus: "Vitamin B12"
- Mayo Clinic: "Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)"
- National Eczema Association: "5 New-Ish Complementary, Alternative Treatments for Eczema"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky, Harmful"
- American Academy of Dermatology: "Dry Skin"
- Mayo Clinic: "Itchy skin (Pruritus)"