Vitamin B12 Deficiency & Numb Fingers

A numb feeling in your fingers is not only irritating, but it could signal an unknown condition, injury or nutrient deficiency. Check with your practitioner about tests to determine where the problem lies. Your doctor may find that boosting your intake of vitamin B12 through food or supplements may solve the problem.

Connection between B12 and Finger Numbness

Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells. You may experience numbness in your fingers if your fingers’ nerve cells don’t receive the nutrients needed to develop and maintain proper nerve function. Numbness or tingling in the toes or fingers are a possible sign of B12 deficiency, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC.

Additional Symptoms

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Along with manifesting itself through finger numbness or tingling, B12 deficiency may occur as either numbness or tingling in the toes. Other symptoms include nervousness, diarrhea, fatigue or trouble catching your breath. It’s important to determine if the cause of these symptoms stem from a B12 deficiency, because a severe case may cause brain damage, notes UMMC.

Risk Factors

Eating a poor overall diet may result in several nutrient deficiencies, including the pernicious anemia associated with lack of vitamin B12. Vegans may also suffer from it, due to a lack of meat, eggs and dairy in their diet. Some conditions prevent the absorption of B12 into the system, including tapeworm and pancreatic disorders. Elderly people and those with HIV are also more likely to have a B12 deficiency.

Common Food Sources of B12

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The nonprofit nutrition website World’s Healthiest Foods notes that animal-based foods represent the only consistent food sources of vitamin B12. Animals retain the nutrient better than plants, making meat or dairy B12 content reliably higher than those in plant foods. A 4-oz. serving of calf’s liver provides almost seven times the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of the vitamin, while sardines also exceed the minimum recommended amounts of B12 intake. Other foods rich in the nutrient include snapper, venison, shrimp, scallops, salmon, beef and lamb, all of which provide at least 40 percent of the RDA of B12. Cod, halibut, milk, yogurt and eggs also provide vitamin B12 to the diet.

Other B12 Sources

For people averse to eating meat or dairy, vitamins and some plant foods provide additional options, Some seaweed, algae, fermented plant foods and yeasts may supply B12, but the vitamin content isn't as predictable as B12 from animal-based sources, notes World's Healthiest Foods. Find a reputable source for these foods with reliable nutrient labels, or ask your doctor about vitamin supplements. B12 is available in both in multi-vitamin form or in individual supplements. Your doctor will determine the best supplement and dose for you.

Other Possible Causes of Finger Numbness

The “New York Times” Health Guide reports that B12 deficiency is just one of several possible causes of sensorimotor polyneuropathy, the condition which causes numbness in the body, including fingers and toes. The condition may also stem from inflammation, conditions related to alcoholism or diabetes, medication complications and Guillain-Barre syndrome, among other potential causes.