Vitamin B12 deficiency: A ‘series’ of patients report the same symptom at night – do you?

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

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B12 is found in lots of animal products including meat, fish and cheese. However, it can also be found in some fortified cereals and yeast products like Marmite. Without enough B12 it can prevent our red blood cells from functioning properly, leading to anaemia.

This is why some of the most common symptoms of B12 deficiency include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • A lack of energy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Problems with memory, understanding and judgement.

As soon as you think you might have a B12 deficiency you can begin to treat it.

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.

One report found that a “series of patients” with B12 deficiencies all experienced the same issues overnight.

The research, put together by a doctor from a Canadian hospital, concluded that “drenching night sweats” could be linked to the deficiency.

As part of the paper, which was published in the Electronic Journal of General Medicine in 2015, the experiences of five patients with B12 deficiencies were shared.

Of them, four suffered from night sweats and three experienced fatigue or extreme tiredness.

In one case, “a 57-year-old man was referred for assessment of a three to four-year history of drenching night sweats needing replacement of bed-sheets almost on a nightly basis.

“The sweating involved only the upper portion of his body from top of the head to mid chest around the level of the nipples and seemed to be worse after drinking alcohol”.

In another, “a 74-year-old man was referred for episodic sweating, intense enough to require a change of clothing or bed sheets, of 10 years duration.

“These episodes occurred one to three times a week and lasted 10 to 30 minutes”.

It adds: “A 71-year-old woman was referred for assessment of extreme tiredness, dizziness and drenching night sweats of several years duration.

“The sweating episodes were mainly nocturnal and would at times require changing

The NHS notes other symptoms of B12 deficiency as:

  • Pins and needles
  • A sore and red tongue
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Disturbed vision
  • Psychological problems, which may include depression and confusion.

Other foods that contain B12 are milk, cheese and eggs.

“See a GP if you think you may have a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency,” the NHS says.

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

“This is because although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible.”

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