9 Most Common Symptoms of B6 Deficiency

1. Skin Rashes

Vitamin B6 deficiency is one cause of a red, itchy rash called seborrheic dermatitis. The rash can appear on your scalp, face, neck and upper chest. It’s known for its oily, flaky appearance and may cause swelling or white patches.

One reason B6 deficiency may result in skin rashes is that the vitamin helps synthesize collagen, which is needed for healthy skin. In these cases, B6 injections clear up the rash quickly.

2. Cracked and Sore Lips

Cheilosis, which is characterized by sore, red and swollen lips with cracked mouth corners, can result from B6 deficiency. Cracked areas may bleed and become infected. In addition to being very painful, having cracked and sore lips can make activities like eating and talking difficult.

Correcting B6 deficiency with foods rich in the vitamin or a supplement may clear up these symptoms.

3. Sore, Glossy Tongue

If you have a B6 deficiency, your tongue may become swollen, sore, smooth, inflamed or reddened. This is called glossitis. The glossy, smooth surface of the tongue is due to the loss of papillae. Those are the bumps on your tongue. Glossitis can cause problems chewing, swallowing and talking.

Replenishing B6 treats glossitis, provided that a deficiency is the only cause.

4. Mood Changes

Shortfalls of B6 may affect your mood, sometimes contributing to depression, anxiety, irritability and increased feelings of pain. That’s because B6 is involved in the making of several neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Both serotonin and GABA help control anxiety, depression and feelings of pain.

Research suggests that taking 50–80 mg of B6 supplements daily may help with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as moodiness, irritability, anxiety and depression.

5. Weakened Immune Function

A well-working immune system is key to preventing infections, inflammation and various cancers. Nutrient deficiencies, including B6, can disrupt the immune system. More specifically, a deficiency in B6 can result in the decreased production of antibodies needed to fight infections.

A B6 deficiency may also reduce your body’s production of white blood cells, including T cells. These cells regulate immune function, helping it respond appropriately. Additionally, B6 helps your body make a protein called interleukin-2, which helps direct the actions of white blood cells.

People with autoimmune disorders (in which the immune system turns against itself), can have increased destruction of B6, which increases the need for the vitamin.

6. Tiredness and Low Energy

A vitamin B6 deficiency can leave you feeling unusually tired and sluggish. A big reason is vitamin B6’s role in helping make hemoglobin. That’s the protein in your red blood cells that helps carry oxygen throughout your body. If your cells don’t get enough oxygen as a result of too little hemoglobin, it’s called anemia. That can make you feel tired and weak.

There have been select cases of B6-related anemia in which taking the inactive pyridoxine hydrochloride (HCl) form of the vitamin didn’t help. However, supplementing with the body’s most active form of B6, called pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP), resolved the anemia.

Besides feeling tired from anemia, B6 deficiency could also potentially contribute to tiredness due to its role in making the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.

7. Tingling and Pain in Hands and Feet

Deficiency of B6 can cause nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy.. Symptoms may include burning, shooting and tingling pain in your arms, legs, hands and feet. Some describe it as a “pins and needles” feeling.

The nerve damage may also result in clumsiness, balance problems and difficulty walking. Nerve problems from B6 deficiency are reversible with adequate B6 intake. 

8. Seizures

Seizures happen for different reasons, including B6 deficiency. Without enough B6, you don’t make adequate amounts of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, so your brain may become overstimulated.

Seizures can cause symptoms such as muscle spasms, rolling eyes and jerky arms or legs. Sometimes people have rapid, uncontrollable shaking (convulsions) or lose consciousness.

More recently, seizures due to B6 deficiency have been reported in adults. These cases were most commonly found in pregnancy, alcoholism, medication interactions or liver disease.

9. High Homocysteine

Homocysteine is a byproduct created during protein digestion. A B6 deficiency, as well as folate and B12, can result in an abnormally high blood level of homocysteine, as these B vitamins are needed to help process homocysteine.

Increased homocysteine levels have been linked with several health issues, most notably heart disease and stroke, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. When homocysteine is elevated, it can damage blood vessels and nerves.