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Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: Three signs in the eyes you could be lacking B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can develop if a person isn’t getting enough of the vitamin from the foods they’re eating. Vegans and vegetarians stand risk of not getting enough vitamin B12 because the best sources of B12 are from foods of an animal origin. Certain medical conditions may also affect a person’s B12 intake – conditions such as pernicious anaemia affects a person’s absorption of B12 from foods. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the body as it’s responsible for the production of red blood cells and keeping nerves healthy.

For some people the eyes could show warning signs of vitamin B12 deficiency

A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to a shorter supply of red blood cells and nerves can become damaged.

If vitamin B12 deficiency is left for a long time untreated then serious long-term health complications can occur, including cardiovascular disease.

Recognising the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency early can help avoid complications.

For some people the eyes could show warning signs of the condition.

Eye twitch

An eye twitch could be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, according to Thyroid Patient Advocacy.

This usually occurs in one eye or the other and can appear even in “borderline” vitamin B12 deficiency.

It advises: “It can occur on the eyelid or just below the eye.

“This is not usually painful, just annoying.”

Blurry vision

Blurred or disturbed vision can also be a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.

A study has shown this can occur when an untreated B12 deficiency results in nervous system damage to the optic nerve that leads to the eyes. 

The damage can disrupt the nervous signal that trails from the eyes to the brain, leading to impaired vision.

This condition is recognised as optic neuropathy.


Jaundice is a condition in which the skin and white of the eyes turn yellow.

This can occur in the case of a lack of B12 and its affect on the body’s red blood cell production. 

As well as red blood cells being in shorter supply they can also become more fragile and break down, causing an excess of bilirubin.

Bilirubin is a slightly red or gown-coloured substance produced by the liver when it breaks down old blood cells.

Large amounts of bilirubin are what fives the skin and eyes a yellow tinge. 

Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency to look out for

Bupa lists other symptoms of the condition to be aware of:

  • Feeling very tired
  • Breathlessness even after little exercise
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • A reduced appetite
  • A sore mouth and tongue

The health organisation adds: “Vitamin B12-deficiency may cause symptoms related to your nerves. This is called vitamin B12 neuropathy. It may affect your movement and sensation, especially in your legs, cause numbness or pins and needles and decrease your sensitivity to touch, vibration or pain. It can also cause confusion, depression, poor concentration and forgetfulness.

“These symptoms aren’t always due to vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, but if you have them see your GP.”

How to treat vitamin B12 deficiency

If a person isn’t getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet they may be advised by a GP to eat more foods fortified with vitamin B12 or to take regular supplements.

Vitamin B12 injections may also be recommended, and for those with pernicious anaemia, injections may be required for the rest of their lives.

Experts say adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms (mg) a day of vitamin B12, and unless you have pernicious anaemia, you should be able to get this through your diet.

If vitamin B12 deficiency is triggered by not including enough B12 foods in the diet, Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, offers the “A list of B12 foods” on its website. 

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