Back pain, sore legs, and headaches may result from an injury, or from chronic illness like migraines, but they can also be symptoms of chronic nerve pain resulting from vitamin B12 deficiency, a form of anemia that impairs red blood cell production and leads to severe nerve cell damage. Listed are some typical causes of neuropathic pain associated with low vitamin B12 levels.
There are many types of chronic nerve pain, and most of them are strongly linked to vitamin B12 deficiency.
Nerve damage from vitamin B12 deficiency
Like multiple sclerosis (MS), vitamin B12 deficiency can also impair your nervous system and cause severe handicaps.
Your body relies on vitamin B12 to protect your nervous system from harm. Vitamin B12 builds myelin, a fatty substance that insulates your nerve fibers, enhancing intercellular communication, so that sensory messages travel along the spinal cord to the brain smoothly and efficiently.
When vitamin B12 levels are low, you experience side effects resulting from demyelination, destruction of the nerve cell’s outer coating. Nervous impulses become slower and chronic nerve pain symptoms of painful tingling, burning, and numbness become more frequent as the protective layer of your delicate nerve fibers slowly corrodes.
Over time, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause severe, debilitating chronic nerve pain and handicaps, such as difficulty walking, controlling arm movements, or maintaining balance.
Unless treated, severely depleted vitamin B12 levels can cause increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, and ultimately, death.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is often comorbid with diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most common causes of chronic nerve pain, causing symptoms similar to vitamin B12 deficiency. Diabetics taking metformin are at a high risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiency, as metformin is one of several drugs that prevent absorption of vitamin B12 from foods.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is harder to detect in people with diabetes, as the symptoms are masked by diabetic neuropathy. For that reason, diabetics are encouraged to take blood tests for vitamin B12 deficiency frequently, and take extra doses of vitamin B12 when chronic nerve pain persists.
Sometimes, vitamin B12 deficiency is an autoimmune disorder.
People with autoimmune disorders such as fibromyalgia, lupus, or Crohn’s disease are more susceptible to the autoimmune form of pernicious anemia, one of the major causes of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Also, pernicious anemia may result from symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, migraines, or celiac disease, as frequent vomiting, diarrhea, ulcers, and acid reflux make it more difficult to digest food sources of vitamin B12.
Treating nerve pain
If vitamin B12 deficiency is behind neuropathic pain, then only immediate and consistent supplementation of vitamin B12- usually in high doses- can bring ultimate relief.
The best, most digestible sources of vitamin B12 are non-dietary supplements that are absorbed into your bloodstream.
For best results, start out with 1,000mcg of vitamin B12 weekly, or more often, as needed.
NSAIDs are usually not helpful for treating neuropathic pain. While opioids may relieve chronic nerve pain symptoms, they are also addictive, have dangerous side effects, and sometimes lead to fatal overdose.
Your doctor may prescribe tricyclic antidepressants or SSNRIs for neuropathic pain, or he may advise anti-epileptic drugs. All of these, over extended periods of time, may result in uncomfortable side effects, so use with caution.
Topical ointments for arthritis may help to relieve nerve pain, without any harmful side effects.
If you suffer nerve pain in the hands, feet, or back, have you been tested for vitamin B12 deficiency?
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