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4 Signs of a Niacin Deficiency

Apr 18, 2010

As niacin takes part in more than 50 metabolic processes within the body, its deficiency may have serious effects on your health. In order to prevent such effects, you need to identify the signs of niacin deficiency, so you can treat the problem as soon as it appears. Keep in mind though that pellagra, as niacin deficiency is also known, is rather seldom in developed countries. A normal diet supplies the necessary amount of this nutrient. Below are detailed some of the signs that can occur when niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is depleted from the body.

1. Skin Signs

If you have vitamin B3 deficiency, lesions will start appearing on both sides of your body, symmetrically. The lesions will become visible on areas that are usually under pressure. More than that, skin that is exposed to sunlight is also at a greater risk of developing such lesions. The way these are distributed on the body is more relevant for identifying the niacin deficiency than the shape of the lesions. When they affect the hands and take the shape of a glove, the condition is called pellagrous glove. If they affect the legs and feet and look like a boot, you have what is known as pellagrous boot.

2. Mucous Membrane Symptoms

In the majority of the cases, the mucous membrane of the mouth will be perturbed. However, there are situations when the urethra and the vagina are affected. Acute vitamin B3 deficiency leads to health conditions, such as glossitis and stomatitis. When pellagra becomes graver, the tongue and the mucous membranes of the mouth get red. Symptoms that may be experienced at this point include:

  • Edema of the tongue
  • Increased salivation
  • Pain in the mouth

Ulcerations are not something uncommon in this situation. They may appear in the following locations:

  • On the inside of the cheek
  • On the mucous membrane of the lower lip
  • Under the tongue

Such symptoms need to be reported to the health care provider. 

3. Gastrointestinal Symptoms

If you are vitamin B3 deficient, you may also experience a burning sensation in the pharynx and esophagus. In addition, the following signs may be noticed:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Distention
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If you observe blood in the stool, you need to know that this happens because of the ulceration of the bowel.

4. Central Nervous System Problems

Your central nervous system also suffers when the amount of vitamin B3 found in your body is not sufficient. Keep in mind that the symptoms that occur in this case are very serious and emphasize the importance of niacin supplementation. Some of the symptoms that affect the central nervous system include:

  • Confabulation
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Disorientation
  • Excitement
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Mania
  • Memory impairment
  • Paranoia

After noticing these symptoms and reporting them to the health care provider, a diagnosis needs to be performed. It is very important to talk to a doctor about these symptoms, as only a professional is able to discern between niacin deficiency and another similar problem. For example, the symptoms affecting the central nervous system may also indicate a thiamin deficiency.

 

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