Q: Last October, I started having neurological symptoms. My hands were falling asleep every night with pins and needles. The symptoms got worse, and I developed pain in my neck, upper back and arms. Sometimes my feet would fall asleep as well.
I saw my family doctor, a neurologist, an orthopedist and a physiatrist. I had my blood tested for B-12 deficiency, diabetes and thyroid problems. I had an MRI that showed some disk deterioration and arthritis in my neck.
Despite physical therapy and muscle relaxants, my symptoms fluctuated. No one thought to suggest vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) toxicity. I was taking a multivitamin with 150 percent of the RDA for this vitamin.
Finally, I Googled my symptoms and thought perhaps I might have too much B-6 in my system. A blood test showed I had twice the upper limit of normal.
I stopped taking the supplement, and within four weeks my symptoms were 95 percent improved! Apparently, some people do not process this vitamin the way others do, and it can be dangerous.
Since then, my 23-year-old daughter developed similar symptoms. These were linked to an energy drink that has extra vitamin B-6.
A: Your case is quite unusual. Although there are reports of neurological damage from high doses of vitamin B-6 (above 100 milligrams per day), symptoms like yours are not supposed to occur at the dose you were taking. Thank you for alerting us to the possibility that some people may be exceptionally sensitive to vitamin B-6 toxicity.
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. E-mail them via their Web site: www.peoples pharmacy.com. They can be reached at peoplespharmacy @gmail.com.