If we think of loss of strength and tingling in the legs we think of sciatica and herniated disc but there are many other possible causes. Back problems are one of the most frequent causes but this will not always be the case. For a doctor it is important to quickly detect diseases that have a solution. If we delay in diagnosing a disease for which there is no treatment, it does not have the same transcendence. We cannot allow ourselves to be seriously injured by something with an easy solution. In this sense, the vitamin B12 deficiency has treatment and physicians should look for it if there are compatible neurological symptoms without a clear explanation.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency affects two levels in the body. On the one hand it alters the normal production of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in the blood. Anemia occurs, that is, there are fewer red blood cells than you should. In addition, these become larger than normal. This is why it is called megaloblastic anemia.
On the other hand, the deficiency of vitamin B12 causes a deficiency in the formation of myelin that will cause neurological problems. Myelin is the nerve layer that causes the signal to travel at the appropriate speed.
The symptoms are usually in the legs rather than in the arms and is usually symmetrical, that is, it would affect both legs. The patient begins by noticing paresthesias that can later evolve to alterations in sensitivity that we call proprioceptive with loss of balance. If the disease continues, you may end up having muscle weakness, even behaving like a medullary lesion with paraplegia and all that this injury entails.
This is the most common presentation but peripheral nerves and also the brain may be affected. In the cerebral affections we can have dementia, memory loss or irritability according to the affectation. That is why, in every patient with dementia, looking at vitamin B12 levels is an obligation.
That being said, not all the symptoms of the hand go. Neurological disorders may occur and there is no anemia, for example. The determination of vitamin B12 only requires a blood test. Therefore, in the face of unexplained neurological symptoms, it is important to look for a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Why can we miss Vitamin B12?
This vitamin is taken with meat and dairy products. In a normal diet we have enough quantity but there are circumstances that can cause it to not reach our reserves. If we detect a vitamin B12 deficiency we would have to investigate it.
There is a substance that produces our stomach that is essential to absorb vitamin B12 in the intestine. It’s called intrinsic factor. This substance can be damaged by antibodies that attack it or because it is damaged the stomach where it occurs (atrophic gastritis).
There are many other causes like taking antacids for a long time, a parasite infection, if we take part of the stomach in surgery or chronic alcoholism among others. Strict vegans may also have this problem.
How is the treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency?
The treatment, as one can imagine, is the replenishment of this vitamin. If we have studied the cause, perhaps this can also be solved and that we re-absorb the vitamin naturally. If it is not, since we do not absorb it, giving oral supplements is not the best option.
The best way is an intramuscular injection of vitamin B12 that is usually one milligram. Depending on our situation the doctor will tell us how many times to puncture. At first it occurs more frequently until we fill the deposits. Subsequently with an injection a month we can keep.
We said earlier that the oral route was not the best option but it is possible. Giving high doses of this vitamin every day can get to absorb the sufficient amount since not everything depends on the mechanism that we had counted before. That is why with high doses the deposits could be filled in cases where it is not contraindicated. Having said that, given how simple the injection is and with the most predictable result, this is the best route.
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