Can B12 deficiency cause itching?


Itching Due to Vitamin B12 Deficiency

All B vitamins help break down carbohydrates and proteins during metabolism and support healthy skin and hair. B12 aids in the production of red blood cells and healthy nerve cells. It helps in the creation of DNA during cell division and keeps skin smooth and supple.

Recently, one of our readers, Chirag Pratap, commented on a similar topic. He asked if B12 deficiency can cause itching. We reached out to Prof. Ragini Chugh, a dermatologist in Delhi. She gave the following insights about the matter:

Itching in dermatology is a symptom in itself and can be caused by multiple reasons. The list of possible causes of itching is huge and can include almost anything from psoriasis to alopecia areata to vitamin deficiency to hypothyroidism to diabetes mellitus.

B12 or cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as an essential cofactor for several metabolic processes. It is also known as the energy vitamin because it helps the body produce red blood cells and release energy from food.

The nerves and brain also need this vitamin to function optimally. So, if you notice that you’re feeling lightheaded and confused or you can’t concentrate or if you’re unable to remember things, it could be a symptom of B12 deficiency.

Itching is another possible symptom of B12 deficiency. But before we go on to the answer to our question, let’s understand why such a deficiency can cause itching.

Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells and the maintenance of the nervous system. B12 deficiency can impair these crucial functions, leading to allergic reactions including itching.

Most people have never heard of B12 deficiency. Even if they have, it’s unlikely they will know much about it. In fact, many doctors won’t know much about it either. The general consensus is that it’s a rare condition. But what is actually ‘rare’ is people being aware of its existence.

The truth is that B12 deficiency is a serious condition that can lead to a number of issues including anaemia, nerve damage and a whole host of other diseases and conditions. It can be easily treated with a course of vitamin B12 injections, but if left untreated, the condition can become permanent.

Some people with B12 deficiency may also experience symptoms like mouth ulcers, feelings of pins and needles in the tongue or a burning and itching sensation in and around the mouth.

B12 Deficiency-Related Health Issues

Symptoms for Vitamin B12 deficiency can include tiredness, tingling hands and feet, muscle weakness, depression, short memory loss, dementia, vision problems, anaemia, and low blood counts.

Feelings of apathy are common in B12 deficiency, as are feelings of tiredness, depression, irritability and difficulty sleeping.

A new study has found that large percentages of older adults are deficient in B12, which is an essential vitamin. Several health issues may arise due to deficiency of B12 including neurological dysfunction, poor memory, fatigue, depression and others. 

Researchers studied the blood samples of over 26,000 people aged 50 and above. They found that close to 37% suffered from a marginal deficiency of B12 whereas 14% had severe deficiency.

The need for these kinds of study is very high since B12 is often neglected when it comes to supplements or for that matter, our diet. It is found in animal products like meat, milk and eggs. Since vegans and vegetarians tend to be deficient in B12, they must get the right amounts through supplements.

You may experience some other issues like atrophic gastritis, pernicious anaemia, celiac disease, immune system disorders, etc if you have Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause hair loss as well because it weakens the hair follicles and negatively affect melanin production. It slows down hair growth because the body struggles to replicate hair cells.
Cobalamin produces red blood cells and a decreased number of red blood cells has been linked to iron deficiency. Both these conditions hamper hair growth, leading to hair loss or thinning from the scalp.

Including sufficient Vitamin B12 in your diet will help in producing red blood cells and promote healthy hair growth by feeding the hair follicles.

The body is unable to produce B12 naturally. The B vitamin can be found mostly in animal products such as beef, salmon, eggs and milk. However, vegetarians are particularly susceptible to not getting enough B12 in their diet.

It is easy to overcome a B12 deficiency by simply taking a supplement. However, it is important to consult with your doctor to make sure no other underlying health issues are causing the deficiency.

If you are suffering from pernicious anaemia or have trouble absorbing Vitamin B12, you will need shots of this vitamin along with oral supplements or get it nasally after that. 

People who do not eat animal products or older adults who have Vitamin B12 deficiency will likely have to take Vitamin B12-fortified grains or a daily B12 supplement or a multivitamin that contains Vitamin B12.

Take Away

Although there are a number of different causes, one of the most common culprits is an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut which interferes with the absorption of B12 from our food.

Some signs and symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include jaundice, weakness, fatigue, mouth ulcers, dizziness, disturbed vision, etc.

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