SYMPTOMS OF B12 DEFICIENCY

The warning signs of B12 deficiency are extensive

Unfortunately, symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can take years to show up, and diagnosing it can

be complex. A B12 deficiency can sometimes be mistaken for a folate deficiency. Low levels of B12

cause your folate levels to drop. However, if you have a B12 deficiency, correcting low folate levels

may simply mask the deficiency and fail to fix the underlying problem.

Those at risk of B12 deficiency

  • Vegetarians

  • Vegans

  • Alcoholics

  • Those with stomach or intestinal disorders

  • Those having had stomach reduction surgery

  • Sufferers of Pernicious Anaemia

  • Genetic conditions

  • The elderly

  • Those who have had surgery that removes the part of the bowel that absorbs B12

  • Diabetics using the drug Metformin

  • Those taking long-term antacid drugs for heartburn

Symptoms of B12 deficiency

As vitamin B12 is involved in so many functions in the body, from producing DNA, RNA, and red blood

cells to producing energy, a vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest in a wide variety of symptoms, including:

1. Dizziness

If you often feel a “head rush” when you get up after sitting for long periods of time, or while climbing up a flight of stairs, you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency. When your body has low levels of the vitamin, you may lose your balance, especially when you move too fast. Dizziness or lightheadedness is a classic symptom of low blood pressure, and low blood pressure is a common fallout of vitamin B12 deficiency.

2. Numbness or Pins and Needles

A Vitamin B12 deficiency does not just lower your blood pressure but it also reduces the production of healthy Red Blood Cells in your blood, thus reducing oxygen supply to other organs. This is what causes the numbness.

3. Pale or Yellow Skin

Pale and yellowish skin is one of the most common signs of a B12 deficiency. You may even notice a slight yellow tinge in the white of your eyes, not unlike in jaundice. When the B12 levels in your body dip, red blood cells become fragile and start breaking down into bilirubin.

4. Skin Lesions, Vitiligo, and Sore Tongue

Any change in the B12 content in the body can lead to skin problems like vitiligo, dermatitis, hyperpigmentation, or acne. Skin lesions, especially those not responding to any other treatment, are most likely from a B12 deficiency. Your hair and nails could change, too.

Glossitis or inflammation of the tongue is another symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency. In this condition, the tongue becomes smooth and loses its taste buds, which may make food intake difficult and further reduce your nutrient intake.

5. Poor Vision

If you’re experiencing blurriness or double vision even though you don’t have any eye disorder, you could have a B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is necessary for optimum nerve function. A B12 deficiency could damage your optic nerve – a nerve that transfers information and signals from your eye to your brain – causing impaired vision.

6. Muscle Weakness

If you were able to deadlift with ease at the gym but are now unable to carry even a small backpack, your muscles might be weak. Muscle weakness is a telltale sign of a B12 deficiency, as your muscles aren’t receiving enough oxygen (due to your poor RBC count) to perform everyday activities.

7. Constant Fatigue and Shortness of Breath

It’s normal to feel tired after a long day at work or after an intense workout. But if you feel tired all the time even when you haven’t performed any physically (or mentally) strenuous activity, a vitamin B12 deficiency could be at play.

The lack of vitamin B12 affects your blood’s capacity to carry oxygen. Since all your organs don’t receive sufficient oxygen, you may frequently feel tired and short of breath. Plus, vitamin B12 is one of the vitamins required for converting the glucose from your food to energy. And a deficiency can adversely affect glucose metabolism and reduce the energy released.

8. Stomach Problems

If you’re experiencing diarrhea or bloating even though you maintain a healthy diet, then your body might not be absorbing vitamin B12 properly. Due to this, the cells of your gastrointestinal tract don’t receive enough oxygen, leading to digestive problems like gas, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

9. Memory Loss

Most of us have a good long-term memory but often forget where we kept our car keys. But if this “forgetfulness” is becoming a daily occurrence, your low vitamin B12 levels might be to blame. A deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause a milder type of dementia that resembles the first stage of Alzheimer’s as prolonged B12 deficiency has been linked to Alzheimer’s or dementia.

10. Depression

If you’ve been feeling generally low without an immediate cause, vitamin B12 deficiency could have a role to play in generating the “blues.”  One of the main functions of Vitamin B12 is to produce brain chemicals like dopamine (your body’s happy hormone), a deficiency could reduce the levels of dopamine in your body. Low levels of these chemicals in the brain result in mental problems and cognitive problems. They affect the mood of the person seriously, leading to depression.

11. Mental Disorders

Although rare, a few cases have been reported where a long-term vitamin B12 deficiency has resulted in mental disorders like OCD and psychosis, especially in the elderly.

If you or a loved one are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, please consult your GP.

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