Facial pain can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, research suggests.
The pain is sometimes felt just under the eye, in the cheekbone area, usually on only one side of the face.
The pain can also be felt across the forehead, occasionally coming down to the edge of the nose.
Twitches under the eye can also be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Other, more common signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include feeling tired, experiencing muscle weakness and being constipated.
The study of facial pain included 17 people.
All were given injections of a vitamin B12 supplement over a four week period.
The results showed that supplementation alleviated the condition.
Another sign of vitamin B12 deficiency is cold sores.
The researchers found that the vitamin also successfully treated this condition, said Dr Baruah:
“It may be possible that having cold sores means there is an active herpes simplex virus located in the gasserian ganglion, indicating that there may be some compromise of that particular side and these trigeminal nerves are found to be more susceptible to deficiencies to vitamins, such as B12.”
Vitamin B12 deficiency is easy to rectify with supplements or by dietary changes.
The body uses vitamin B12 to make red blood cells and to keep the nervous system healthy.
Vitamin B12 levels can be boosted through supplementation or by eating foods such as dairy, liver, salmon and eggs.
Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.
Dr Jitendra K. Baruah, the study’s first author, said:
“It was somewhat unexpected that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause isolated facial neuralgia.
Treatment for facial neuralgia is sometimes very difficult, and patients may often go into multimodalities treatment without much success.
Knowing that this condition is remediable with vitamin B12 therapy, it is important to identify these patients and treat them accordingly.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Pain (Koopman et al., 2009).