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Vitamin B6 deficiency symptoms

9 signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency

Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, plays a vital role in more than 150 enzyme reactions. Here are nine indications of vitamin B6 deficiency.

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9 signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency
Last updated on December 23, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on August 22, 2023.

A lack of vitamin B6 can cause symptoms like skin problems, mood swings, and tiredness. To stay safe, include vitamin B6-rich foods like chicken, bananas, and avocados in your diet.

9 signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency

Vitamin B6, sometimes called pyridoxine, belongs to the B vitamin family. Found in 1932, researchers continue to discover more about it.

Most folks get their vitamin B6 needs from food. However, if you’re low on other B vitamins like folate or B12, you might be short on vitamin B6 too.

People with certain conditions like liver or kidney issues, digestive problems, or autoimmune diseases might face vitamin B6 deficiency. This also applies to smokers, those who drink a lot, overweight individuals, and expectant mothers.

Inside your body, vitamin B6 plays a part in over 150 enzyme activities. It helps break down the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats you consume. Plus, it’s crucial for your nervous system and immune defense.

Recent studies suggest vitamin B6 might also guard against diseases like heart issues and cancer, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities.

Here are 9 signs and symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency.

1. Skin rashes

Vitamin B6 deficiency can cause seborrheic dermatitis, a red and itchy rash that appears on the scalp, face, neck, and upper chest.

The rash is characterized by an oily and flaky appearance and can cause swelling or white patches.

Vitamin B6 deficiency may result in skin rashes because the vitamin helps synthesize collagen, which is needed for healthy skin. In these cases, consuming B6 may clear up the rash quickly.

Some people affected with seborrheic dermatitis may have higher requirements for vitamin B6. A vitamin B6 face cream has helped some people improve symptoms from seborrheic dermatitis.

Summary: An itchy, oily, and flaky rash is a common sign of vitamin B6 deficiency. Consuming enough vitamin B6 generally helps clear up the rash quickly in deficiency cases.

2. Cracked and sore lips

Cheilosis, which is characterized by sore, red, and swollen lips with cracked mouth corners, can result from vitamin B6 deficiency. Cracked areas may bleed and become infected.

9 health benefits of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
Suggested read: 9 health benefits of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

In addition to being very painful, having cracked and sore lips can make activities like eating and talking difficult.

Clear up symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency by consuming foods rich in the vitamin or taking a supplement.

Notably, deficiencies of riboflavin, folate, iron, and other nutrients can also cause this condition, as can sunny, dry, or windy weather and other external factors.

Summary: Sore lips with cracks in the corners of your mouth can be a sign of vitamin B6 deficiency. If that’s the case, getting enough vitamin B6 through food or a supplement could heal your lips.

3. Sore, Glossy Tongue

If you have a vitamin 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 vitamin B6 treats glossitis provided that a deficiency is the only cause.

Deficiencies of other nutrients, including folate and B12, can also result in this condition. Consuming enough of all these vitamins may then be needed to clear up glossitis.

Summary: A swollen, inflamed, glossy-looking tongue is a sign of vitamin B6 deficiency. Shortfalls of other nutrients, particularly folate, and B12, may also contribute to the condition.

4. Mood changes

Shortfalls of vitamin B6 may affect your mood, sometimes contributing to depression, anxiety, irritability, and increased feelings of pain.

Suggested read: Iron deficiency: Symptoms, signs, and causes

That’s because vitamin B6 is involved in making several neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Both serotonin and GABA help control anxiety, depression, and feelings of pain.

The role of vitamin B6 in combating such mood issues is being tested in various conditions.

For example, in about half of individuals with autism, supplementing with vitamin B6 helps decrease behavioral problems, possibly because it helps produce neurotransmitters.

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

Vitamin B6 may help with PMS because it helps make serotonin, which lifts your mood. Scientists are researching more to determine if women who experience PMS may actually have vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Summary: Mood changes like irritability, anxiety, and depression can happen when you’re low in vitamin B6. That’s because vitamin B6 is needed to make nerve messengers that help control your mood.

5. Weakened immune function

A well-working immune system is critical to preventing infections, inflammation, and various cancers. Nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin B6, can disrupt the immune system.

More specifically, a deficiency in vitamin B6 can decrease the production of antibodies needed to fight infections.

A vitamin 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, vitamin 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 vitamin B6, which increases the need for the vitamin.

Suggested read: 9 signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

Summary: If you don’t get enough vitamin B6, your body can’t make the antibodies, white blood cells, and other immune factors it needs to fight germs and ward off diseases.

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. The protein in your red blood cells helps carry oxygen throughout your body.

If your cells don’t get enough oxygen due to too little hemoglobin, it’s called anemia. That can make you feel tired and weak.

There have been select cases of vitamin 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 vitamin B6, called pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP), resolved the anemia.

You can buy either form of vitamin B6 as a supplement, but pyridoxine HCl is more common and generally costs less than PLP.

There have been select cases of vitamin 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 vitamin B6, called pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP), resolved the anemia.

You can buy either form of vitamin B6 as a supplement, but pyridoxine HCl is more common and generally costs less than PLP.

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

Summary: Vitamin B6 is needed to help make the red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout your body and help you feel energized.

7. Tingling and pain in hands and feet

A deficiency of vitamin 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.

Additionally, continually taking too much of the inactive form of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCl) from supplements can also cause neuropathy. This may happen because large amounts of inactive vitamin B6 can compete with and block the active PLP form of B6 in your body.

Suggested read: Thiamine (vitamin B1): Deficiency symptoms and treatment

Nerve problems from vitamin B6 deficiency are reversible with adequate vitamin B6 intake. On the other hand, nerve problems from vitamin B6 toxicity may be more challenging to treat.

Summary: Burning, shooting pains in your limbs, hands, and feet can be caused by nerve damage from vitamin B6 deficiency or overdose.

8. Seizures

Seizures happen for different reasons, including vitamin B6 deficiency.

Without enough vitamin 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.

A deficiency of vitamin B6 is well-known to cause seizures in newborns. The first cases were noted in the 1950s when babies were fed infant formula with insufficient vitamin B6.

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

Correcting vitamin B6 deficiency has proven very successful in treating related seizures.

Summary: Seizures are an uncommon but possible result of vitamin B6 deficiency. This is more frequently seen in infants but has also happened in adults.

9. High homocysteine

Homocysteine is a byproduct created during protein digestion.

A vitamin 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, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. When homocysteine is elevated, it can damage blood vessels and nerves.

Fortunately, your homocysteine level can be checked with a simple blood test. Generally, elevated homocysteine can be lowered by taking vitamin B6, B12, and folate supplements.

8 signs and symptoms you’re deficient in vitamins
Suggested read: 8 signs and symptoms you’re deficient in vitamins

Remember that other factors, such as your eating habits and physical activity, are also typically involved in diseases linked with high homocysteine and must be addressed.

Summary: A deficiency of vitamin B6, as well as folate and B12, may cause a high homocysteine level, which can damage blood vessels and nerves and increase the risk of disease.

Foods high in vitamin B6

Your body cannot store large amounts of vitamin B6, so you need to consume it regularly to avoid deficiency.

This is generally not hard to do, as vitamin B6 is widely found in many animal and plant foods. In addition, it’s often added to fortified foods like breakfast cereals and nutrition bars.

The reference daily intake for vitamin B6 for non-pregnant adults is 1.7 mg.

Here are some of the top foods that naturally supply vitamin B6, as well as common serving sizes:

Notably, the forms of B6 in animal sources and fortified foods and supplements are generally better absorbed than those in plant foods.

Suggested read: Water-soluble vitamins: A comprehensive overview

You may need more B6 to make up for this difference if you eat only plant foods.

Summary: If you regularly eat various meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes, you can easily meet your vitamin B6 needs.


Vitamin B6 might not be in the spotlight often, but it’s essential for our body.

If you’re low on vitamin B6, you might notice skin issues, chapped lips, a shiny tongue, mood swings, weak immunity, fatigue, nerve discomfort, seizures, or high homocysteine levels.

Worried about not getting enough vitamin B6? It’s best to check with your doctor.

The good news is that by eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, meats, and fish, you can easily maintain good vitamin B6 levels. In certain situations, a vitamin B6 supplement might be recommended too.

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