Vitamin B12 deficiency: The four visual clues found on the face indicating low levels

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Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal foods, including meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. However, it can also be found in products fortified with B12, such as some varieties of bread and plant-based milk. Unfortunately, symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can take years to show up and diagnosing it can be complex. Taking a good look at your face and noticing any changes, however, could hold some visual clues.


The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology explained hyperpigmentation is when “patches of skin become darker in colour than the normal surrounding skin”.

These patches of darkened skin can appear anywhere on the body, including the face.

It occurs when melanin – the brown pigment that produces normal skin colour – forms deposits in the skin.

Age or “liver” spots are a classic example of hyperpigmentation that are caused by sun damage.


The NHS explained that vitiligo is where “pale white patches develop on the skin”.

It’s the opposite to hyperpigmentation in that it’s the lack of melanin that causes the white patches.

This condition commonly occurs on the face, neck and hands, as well as in creases of the skin.

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Angular cheilitis

Angular cheilitis is a condition that causes “red, swollen patches in the corners of your mouth”, explained WebMD.

DermNet NZ added that symptoms of angular cheilitis can include painful cracks, crusting, oozing, or bleeding.
Nutritional deficiencies, especially of iron and B vitamins, are important in the development of angular cheilitis.

Swollen tongue

You could be at risk of the condition if you notice a subtle change to the colour of your tongue, it’s been claimed.

People with a B12 deficiency might notice their tongue change colour and shape, according to dietitian Helen West.

It might become increasingly painful and swollen, and it could appear a brighter red than normal.

It’s caused by a symptom known as glossitis, which has been linked to a B12 deficiency.

The best dietary sources of vitamin B12 include animal products, and some fortified breakfast cereals.

All adults need around 1.5mcg of vitamin B12 every single day.

Most people that eat meat products should be able to get enough B12 in their diet.

But those that follow a vegan diet may be at risk of a deficiency, warned the NHS.
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