Vitamin B12 deficiency: Four ‘often overlooked’ signs in the corners of your mouth

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

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Among other things, vitamin B12 helps to keep the nervous system healthy and aids normal psychological function. Low B12 levels therefore disrupt important processes and the effects can be sinister. B12 deficiency can cause a slew of symptoms, many of which show up on the surface of your skin.

According to an article published in the Official Publication of The College of Family Physicians of Canada, angular stomatitis is a visual clue of B12 deficiency.

According to the BMJ, angular stomatitis is inflammation of the corners of the mouth, characterised by fissures, scaling, erythema (redness of the skin), and crusting.

The sign is “often overlooked” in its early stages because it’s not specific to vitamin B12 deficiency alone, the Official Publication of The College of Family Physicians of Canada states.

Other signs include:

  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Pins and needles
  • Issues with memory
  • Depression.

How to respond

According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.

These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.

It’s important for vitamin B12 deficiency to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated,” warns the NHS.

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“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”

Are you at risk?

Pernicious anaemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK.

This is an autoimmune condition whereby your immune system – the body’s natural defence system that protects against illness and infection – attacks your body’s healthy cells.

Some people can also develop a vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of not getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet.

According to Holland and Barrett, vitamin B12 deficiency is most likely to affect vegetarians or vegans.

This is because the “richest sources” of B12 are found in meat, dairy and fish.

They include:

  • Meat and liver
  • Fish
  • Clams
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Eggs.

Holland and Barrett points out that vitamin B12 is found in the following plant-based sources:

  • Yeast extract
  • Fortified plant milks
  • Fortified breakfast cereals.

“If you’re following a plant-based diet, taking a vitamin B12 supplement can help prevent a deficiency,” adds the health body.

How to treat B12 deficiency

The treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what’s causing the condition.

Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin.

“If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals,” adds the NHS.

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