Vitamin B12 deficiency: The two signs affecting your hair that mean you may be deficient

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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B12 is found in a lot of animal products such as meat and dairy. Without it we can develop a type of anaemia, which can have a long-term impact on our bodies. If you believe you could have a deficiency it is worth seeing your doctor to get your blood tested.

According to the B12 Institute, a clinic in the Netherlands, two “general” symptoms of B12 deficiency are loss of hair and prematurely turning grey.

And survey of around 1,000 patients published in The British Journal of Nursing showed around 30 percent experienced either “loss of hair, mouth ulcers or blurred vision”.

The clinic warns that a “rapid” diagnosis is important for the patient.

It says: “Vitamin B12 deficiency in its early stages is asymptomatic.

“Diagnosing B12 deficiency is quite a challenge, since very often there is the (unjustified) assumption that anaemia is a required criteria for the diagnosis.

“There is a danger that the diagnosis – and thus B12 deficiency treatment – will be delayed, which may have a large impact on the patient.

“Consequently, rapid diagnosis and treatment are very important.

“There is a chance that a lot of people may have chronic symptoms, considering the severity of the disease.”

It lists other general symptoms as:

  • Exhaustion (strange “drained” feeling)
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Headache, migraine
  • Brittle nails
  • Increased susceptibility to infection (urinary system, sinuses)
  • Shortness of breath or COPD-like phenomena
  • Hoarseness, signs of paralysis in vocal cords
  • Muscle weakness and pains
  • Increased pulse (tachycardia)
  • Tinnitus
  • Sensitivity to cold (especially of hands and feet)
  • Feverish symptoms, feelings of coming down with the flu.

The clinic says all these symptoms “may occur”.

“Sometimes one of the symptoms has clearly manifested; sometimes there are multiple, more or less severe, symptoms,” it adds.

“Patients have told us that their condition has been gradually deteriorating over the years.

“As early as 1901 this was reported, when nobody yet knew which illness they were dealing with.”

A B12 deficiency can affect the brain, with symptoms including:

  • Cognitive decline
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Problems in finding the proper words
  • Disorientation
  • Depression, mood swings, suicidal tendencies, weeping a lot, quickly irritated, outbursts of anger
  • Anxiety, delirium, delusions, paranoia, manic behaviour, hallucinations, psychosis, catatonia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
  • Altered mental condition, personality changes, sense of alienation, brain fog
  • Dementia (prefrontal cortex), Alzheimer-like symptoms.

Upping the intake of the vitamin in your diet will help, or if it is more severe B12 supplements or injections from a GP will be needed.

Other foods rich in B12 are:

  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Marmite.

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