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Vegan man whose arms went numb had vitamin B12 deficiency

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  • A man who ate a vegan diet for 20 years had “undetectable” levels of vitamin B12, according to a report.
  • The man’s arms went numb as the disability affected his nervous system.
  • People who don’t eat animal products should take B12 supplements to prevent nervous system damage.

A man who ate a “strict” vegan diet for 20 years developed a vitamin B12 deficiency that led to him struggling to find the words to speak and numbness in his arms, according to a report.

Vitamin B12 — found naturally in meat, eggs and dairy, but available as a supplement — is essential for nerves and the red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system if not treated for more than six months after the onset of symptoms.

The unidentified 39-year-old man sought medical attention after experiencing numbness and tingling in his arms – from elbows to fingertips – for four days, doctors and medical students wrote in a report published in the Cureus Journal of Medical Science on 16 September.

Over the past seven months, he had trouble finding words, felt confused and had intermittent blurry vision, they said.

He also felt off balance, dizzy, wheezing and more tired than usual, health professionals working in Atlanta said.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency vary and include: tingling in the arms or legs, difficulty walking, fatigue, nausea, fast heartbeat and irritability. Numbness happens because of the effects on the nervous system.

The man had ‘undetectable’ levels of vitamin B12

Investigations revealed that the man had “undetectable” levels of vitamin B12 and low levels of red and white blood cells and platelets.

Vitamin B12 deficiency typically has two causes: because a person is not eating enough foods that contain it, or poor absorption due to conditions such as celiac disease and pernicious anemia.

In this case, the man followed a vegan diet for 20 years without taking vitamin B12 supplements.

B12 deficiency iscommunicating more and moreas more people become vegan

Most people in the US get enough vitamin B12, data from the National Institutes of Health suggest. However, vegans and those who have not eaten eggs, dairy and meat for more than five years are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, says the British Dietetic Association. He recommends that long-term vegetarians and vegans check their vitamin B12 status and take supplements of about 10 micrograms a day as needed.

According to the report, severe B12 deficiency like that in men is rare but is becoming increasingly common as more people adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Early treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency is vital to prevent irreversible damage to the nervous system, the doctors wrote.

Doctors treated the man with vitamin B12 injections and blood transfusions.

Doctors treated the man in hospital with three blood transfusions and daily injections of vitamin B12 for two days.

He then took vitamin B12 injections every day for five days at home, followed by an injection once a week for four weeks and then once a month.

According to the report, his word-finding difficulties improved after one day of treatment, and his coordination, tiredness and shortness of breath all improved after two days.

After a month, his confusion was “completely better,” but he still had numbness in his left hand, doctors said.

After two months, blood tests showed that her vitamin B12 levels had returned to normal.