B12 deficiency: The sign in the ‘corner of the mouth’ warning levels are dangerously low
Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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B12 is a water-soluble vitamin essential for the function of the nervous system and brain. Suboptimal levels can therefore have dire effects on the nerves, which can lead to a cascade of complications if left untreated. The symptoms of a deficiency are often concentrated in the body’s extremities. In some cases, signs may also arise on the lips.
B12 deficiency is most prevalent among older populations and those who omit animal products from their diet.
The symptoms associated with a deficiency are wide-ranging.
Some of the first signs that levels are low include a tingling sensation in the body’s extremities, due to nerves becoming damaged.
But B complex vitamins also support the skin, so signs such as chronically chapped lips could also be signalling an underlying deficiency.
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“Chapped lips are a common symptom of deficiencies, especially in vitamin B9, vitamin B6 and B12,” explains Healthline.
A deficiency can also cause uncomfortable cracking in the corners of the mouth, according to Maple Dental Hygiene Care.
“B Vitamins Deficiency, specifically vitamin B12 can cause cracked lips that have difficulty healing,” says the health body.
“Angular cheilitis is a severe and very uncomfortable lip condition in which cracks and sores are present in the skin at the corners of the mouth when there is B vitamin deficiency.
“Taking B complex vitamins daily helps the body maintain healthily and helps the body cope with daily stress.”
These complications can be put down to the fact that B vitamins can be essential for tissue repair and wound healing.
But cracked lips have wide-ranging causes.
They are common during the winter months because of exposure to cold air and central heating systems.
Other signs in the mouth signalling a potential deficiency may include swelling and bleeding of the gums.
How to avoid B12 deficiency
A vitamin B12 deficiency can be avoided in many people by eating enough bread, cereals and other grains that have been fortified with the nutrient.
Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products and eggs are also good sources of B12.
Other individuals may develop a deficiency due to a shortfall of intrinsic factor – a protein secreted by cells in the stomach that attaches to B12 to help it get absorbed.
This is a common cause of deficiency in both older adults and individuals who undergo weight loss surgery.
Those who are unable to absorb the nutrient may be encouraged to have an injection to top up their levels.
Hydroxocobalamin injections, which can treat and prevent B12 deficiency, are available on prescriptions through the NHS.
“The treatment for vitamin B12 or foal deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition. Most people can be easily treated with infection to replace the missing vitamins,” explains the NHS.
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