Dear Doctor, have you been giving vitamin B12 deficiency another name?

Jan 1, 2014 | Misconceptions, Misdiagnosis, Signs and symptoms | 3 comments

You could probably visit ANY street in the world and find B12 deficient residents. In twenty homes you may find eight people who are deficient, and this may be just two families, including the children of course. B12 deficiency is very common, however it is very commonly misdiagnosed and given another name.

What we need our doctors to recognise is that misdiagnosis of B12 deficiency is, in itself, an epidemic. But how do they do that when their education largely ignores nutrition? 

The blindspot

I know a woman who has been restricted to quarterly B12 injections. She has a desperate need for more frequent B12 injections. But those involved in her care think that what they see is all down to poor mental health, with seemingly no cause!
Instead of the B12 she needs, she’s sectioned. She has been given; lithium (and its associated monitoring), anti psychotics, anti epileptics, anti depressants, MRI scanning, CT scanning. We know she deteriorates but those in charge of her care refuse to recognise the vital importance of this essential vitamin and that each of her symptoms traces it roots to B12 deficiency. Tragically, hers is not an isolated case.

We need our doctors to diagnose B12 deficiency correctly and of course to rule out what may be considered by them, to be ‘more serious’ conditions.

When faced with a heavily symptomatic patient and a within range serum B12 test, using a therapeutic trial of B12 loading doses whilst ruling out, or confirming other illnesses is quite simply, common sense and good medical practice. B12 injections are safe, effective and inexpensive and they don’t interfere with any other treatment that it might be appropriate to explore.


We need our doctors to KNOW the symptoms of B12 deficiency, yes there are a lot and learning how this very common condition manifests will save more lives than you can imagine.

My personal symptom list overlapped with those of my loved ones, however some we don’t share at all. We don’t all present in the same way and it’s important to remember that every body system could be affected, all ages and both sexes. Classic signs of pernicious anaemia may be known to some doctors, but perhaps not the whole picture. I never experienced fatigue, I wasn’t pale, my gait wasn’t affected, I wasn’t anaemic and I wasn’t over sixty. Without my input into my own diagnosis, the outcome could have been very different.

What we need

We need our doctors to make it their job to listen to their patient’s when their symptoms return only a week after an injection. Make it their job to follow the CKS and BNF guidelines and give B12 injections every other day until the patient’s symptoms stop improving. 

Make it their job to understand the need for optimum folate and ferritin levels. Treat their patients as individuals, teach them to self inject, as they do diabetic patients. Just think of the nurses time saved.

We need them to put their patient’s B12 injections on repeat prescription so they don’t need to plead for health, this will free up more of their time.

We need them to stop prescribing cyanocobalamin tablets unless they KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, that their patients deficiency is due to dietary lack alone.


Many with B12 deficiency have been misdiagnosed. You will see that the following conditions share many vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms.

We need doctors to look closely at the diagnoses made for patients and to revisit any incorrect treatment prescribed and to administer B12 injections.

Below I have added the signs and symptoms which are shared with B12 deficiency in just six of the conditions that can be misdiagnoses…there are more.

Multiple sclerosis
• numbness and tingling
• blurring of vision
• vertigo
• tremor
• ataxia
• fatigue
• chronic pain
• muscular spasticity
• muscle weakness and tightness
• bladder incontinence
• constipation
• cognitive problems
• anxiety
• depression
• erectile dysfunction

• forgetfulness
• mood swings
• speech problems
• vision problems
• delusions
• incontinence
• weight loss
• loss of appetite
• dysphagia
• memory loss
• increased vulnerability to infection
• difficulty moving
• disorientation
• difficulty performing spatial tasks

• tremor
• stiffness of muscles
• dystonia
• postural instability
• depression
• anxiety
• cognitive impairment
• delusions
• sudden outbursts of emotion
• poor concentration
• psychosis
• urinary incontinence
• constipation
• erectile dysfunction
• dysphagia
• orthostatic hypotension

• fatigue
• forgetfulness
• confusion
• palpitations
• dizziness
• balance problems

Congestive heart failure
• fatigue
• breathlessness
• ankle swelling
• a persistent cough
• lack of appetite
• weight loss
• tachycardia
• depression
• anxiety

• slowed or confused speech
• cognitive impairment
• widespread pain
• stiffness
• fatigue
• inability to regulate body temperature
• tinnitus
• tingling and numbness
• anxiety
• depression
• painful periods

I could of course go on…… and on …………

Best wishes, Tracey

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  1. Dorothy

    Tracey, I would just add l’hermitte’s sign, which can be a first symptom of B12 deficiency. Sudden shock-like signs can be experienced other than spine.

    Lhermitte sign: Sudden transient electric-like shocks extending down the spine triggered by flexing the head forward. Due to a disorder such as compression of the cervical spine (the portion of the spinal cord within the neck).
    The causes of Lhermitte sign include multiple sclerosis (MS), radiation damage to the spinal cord), cervical spondylosis (degeneration of the disc spaces between the vertebrae), herniation of a cervical disc, a cervical spinal cord tumor, and subacute combined degeneration (caused by vitamin B12 deficiency).

  2. Kylie Rhodes

    Also Lyme disease…you may have to convince the Dr’s to test you and you may even get called crazy by Dr’s as I did a few days ago…If you are in Australia you may struggle more as most Dr’s are believing our govy who are brainwashing them to believe this is true…IMO it’s not rocket science infected people travel the globe, infected people get bitten by local insects and have unprotected sex…Lyme in NOT spread by tick alone!!!


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