Vitamin B12 deficiency: Vision problems? Lesser-known symptom in your eyes warning of low

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Vitamin B12’s contribution to the body is invaluable. Among other things, it helps make red blood cells and keeps your nervous system operating efficiently. Having consistently low B12 levels therefore deals a hammer blow to your body including your eyes.

One symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is blurred or disturbed vision.

This can occur when an untreated B12 deficiency results in nervous system damage to the optic nerve that leads to your eyes.

The damage can disrupt the nervous signal that travels from your eye to your brain, impairing your vision.

This condition is known as optic neuropathy and is known to result in progressive, bilateral, painless vision loss that is often associated with reduced colour vision.

In a study published in Science Direct, optic neuropathy as a vitamin B12 deficiency feature was investigated.

In the study a 29-year-old male reported progressive, painful, bilateral visual deterioration.

A detailed history, examination, and laboratory workup were carried out.

He was diagnosed as having optic neuritis secondary to Vitamin B12 deficiency and showed partial improvement with the replacement of vitamin B12.

The study concluded that patients who present with visual disturbances should be screened for vitamin B12 deficiency, especially the vegan population.

Why this occurs?

“Although the medical community does not yet have an exact understanding of how this neuropathy develops, it is believed that insufficient levels of B-complex vitamins impair biochemical processes at a cellular level,” said the Fedorov Restore Vision Clinic.

The health site added: “Inadequate levels of vitamin B12 and/ or folic acid – for too long at time – promote synthesis and accumulation of toxic format, which blocks the process of oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria.”

It added that this leads to a decrease in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), excessive accumulation of reactive oxygen species, and disorders of axonal transport in the optic nerve fibres.  

“All of this combined eventually begins to damage the optic nerve fibres causing structural abnormalities to the most central part of the optic nerve called the papillomacular bundle.

“It is when this structural damage occurs that any functional loss in vision becomes noticeable.”

When to see a GP

According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.

“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” explains the health body.

It’s doubly important for vitamin B12 deficiency to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

As the NHS notes, although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.

“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”

For many people, a B12 deficiency can be easily rectified by making some simple diet swaps, she added.

The best sources of vitamin B12 include beef, liver, dairy foods, eggs, and salmon.

Around one in 10 people aged 75 or over have a B12 deficiency.

But, taking B12 supplements could also help to treat a deficiency.

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