Have you noticed a persistent tingling, burning sensation, or loss of sensation in your hands and/or feet? If so, you might have something called Paresthesia.
While you should not be alarmed, Paresthesia could potentially indicate underlying issues.
In particular, there is the possibility that your Paresthesia might be caused by a vitamin deficiency.
So, which vitamin deficiencies could lead to Paresthesia, and what might be causing these deficiencies? Continue reading to find out.
What is Paresthesia?
Paresthesia is a condition that is characterized by experiencing “pins and needles” or a loss of sensation in the hands/arms and/or feet/legs.
On a rare occasion, this sensation can occur in other areas of the human body.
While it typically goes away once pressure is relieved from the affected area of the body, Chronic Paresthesia can develop.
When Paresthesia becomes chronic, there is often a neurological or trauma-based cause.
In other words, neuropathy can result from an infection like Lyme disease or be the result of an injury.
It can also be caused by neurological disorders. There is, however, another explanation for why Chronic Paresthesia can occur, and it has to do with vitamin levels.
Vitamin Deficiencies That Cause Paresthesia
Chronic Paresthesia is something that researchers and doctors are still striving to understand through scientific research.
However, it seems that, in some cases, patients with Paresthesia might actually be experiencing symptoms as the result of underlying issues connected to other diseases or disorders.
The two most notable vitamins that appear to cause Chronic Paresthesia are both members of the B vitamin group, Thiamin (also known as B1) and B12.
These deficiencies have a few similarities, and it should be noted that you can have deficiencies in both of these vitamins at the same time.
Also, both can be linked to deeper issues, such as certain autoimmune diseases.
Thiamin (B1) Deficiency
B1 is a coenzyme that your body needs in order to metabolize the food you eat, thereby creating the energy you need to get through the day.
When your body lacks B1, you might feel confused, easily irritated, chronically fatigued, and weak. You might even experience nerve inflammation or damage.
Although thiamine deficiencies are relatively rare in developed areas of the world, they can occur, possibly as part of underlying issues.
In most cases, it seems like B1 deficiencies result from a lack of proper nutrition.
Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a common comorbidity in those with a thiamine deficiency, as it tends to occur in those who abuse alcohol and do not get enough nutrients from food.
A B1 deficiency will progressively worsen over weeks or months, and neuropathic results will become far more profound.
What starts as a weakness in the lower leg muscles can ascend upward and even occur in the hands and arms. Unless treated, the pathogenesis of this deficiency will continue.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is much more commonly diagnosed than thiamine deficiency and tends to be age-related.
As Lindsay H. Allen cites, in developed countries, B12 deficiencies are most frequently reported amongst those who are ages 70 and older due to malabsorption and/or lack of B12 intake from the diet.
Most frequently, those with B12 deficiencies either do not get enough of this vitamin from eating fortified food or taking supplements.
However, individuals who experience increased intestinal permeability (most commonly referred to as “leaky gut syndrome”) due to autoimmune-related issues might have dwindling B12 levels due to their bodies being unable to adequately absorb nutrients.
Autoimmune diseases (such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Lupus) are not age-specific; in fact, they can manifest as early as childhood.
How is Paresthesia Due to a Vitamin Deficiency Diagnosed?
Generally speaking, doctors will order blood work so that they can check for vitamin deficiencies.
However, when it comes to a B1 deficiency, simply running a urinalysis and blood draw is not enough to make the diagnosis.
Getting diagnosed with a B1 deficiency involves measuring your thiamine pyrophosphate level, which requires specific testing methods.
If you are experiencing B12 deficiency, your doctor can diagnose this through testing your serum or plasma B12 level.
Your doctor might also want to check your folate, as it is directly connected to your B12.
Tests will also check whether your red blood cells are too big and if you have a hemoglobin deficiency.
Unfortunately, current methods of B12 testing aren’t always the most reliable.
This is due to the fact that these tests measure your total B12 concentration and fail to take into account how much of your B12 is active versus inactive.
Paresthesia due to a vitamin deficiency requires that you treat the particular deficiency, which is typically done by taking nutritional supplements.
This is done until levels become balanced once again. If a chronic condition (such as an autoimmune disease) is causing the vitamin deficiency, supplementation might have to be long-term.
Those with severe deficiencies, especially of B12, might require B12 injections to start off with.
Those who do not eat meat (which is a major source of dietary B12) can get their supplementation from fortified foods, especially fortified grains, which are known to be densely-packed with an array of B vitamins.
For many people, treatment through sufficient supplementation can help to alleviate symptoms of Chronic Paresthesia.
It might take weeks or even months for the tingling or numb sensations to subside, but they should start to decline as treatment progresses.
Of course, the longer your Chronic Paresthesia (and correlating vitamin deficiency) has been untreated, the longer it will likely take to replenish and heal your body.
Paresthesia is certainly an intrusive, unwanted, and somewhat scary condition to experience.
If you believe that you are experiencing Paresthesia, you will need to contact your doctor.
Be prepared to get sent to at least one specialist and undergo at least a minimal amount of testing to diagnose your condition.
However, you can rest assured that treatment is available and, for most people, is pretty non-invasive.