Vitamin B12 deficiency can show up several symptoms and when not treated can further lead to various diseases. Knowing its symptoms can help prevent further illnesses.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is due to inadequate stores of vitamin B12 in human body. Vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin is essential for maintaining good health. Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms show up first in blood and later in the nervous system of the body.
Vitamin B12 is important for several aspects of health such as production of RBC. Good counts of Red blood cells (RBC) are very important for delivering nutrients and oxygen throughout the tissues and cells within the body. It is important for healthy functioning of body and people who lack vitamin B12 often feel tired or exhausted easily. Not having adequate amounts of vitamin B12 can further lead to anemia. This condition might further lead to generation of larger blood cells than normal, which is called as macrocytic or megaloblastic and they do not perform their job well.
Lack of vitamin B12 is caused by pernicious anemia. This condition is caused by deficiency of glycoprotein known as intrinsic factor. Without this glycoprotein, which is essential for absorption of vitamin B12, causes this deficiency. Stomach secretes this intrinsic factor and it is then bound with vitamin B12, which is later transported to small intestine for the process of absorption. When absorption process is not occurred properly, it leads to B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is essential for transforming homocysteine into methionine, which is an important amino acid necessary for synthesizing proteins. Most cases of this deficiency are due to intestinal diseases but not due to lack of B12 from diet. Once the body uses the stored vitamin B12, it takes around 3 to 6 years to develop pernicious anemia due to the deficiency of vitamin B12.
If this health disorder is not diagnosed or if it becomes severe, permanent damage may occur to the nervous system, cardiovascular system and digestive tract.
Lack of vitamin B12 can also cause neurological and gastrointestinal problems as well. When untreated, this deficiency can further lead to various complications.
Symptoms & Signs of B12 deficiency
The symptoms are sometimes not noticed immediately and in some cases, it might take years for the symptoms to develop. Several signs and symptoms show up initially before anemia develops. Certain symptoms are due to decrease in production of red blood cells, which are vital for transportation of oxygen to body’s tissues and cells.
Initial signs and symptoms
A few common initial symptoms that occur due to inadequate amounts of vitamin B12 in body are listed below:
- Intermittent diarrhea
- Heart palpitations
However, when stores of vitamin B12 in body reduce further or when deficiency of vitamin B12 becomes severe, the symptoms that often shows up are many.
Severe Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
- Pernicious anemia
- Reduced cognitive function
- Poor memory
- Difficulty in maintaining balance and walk
- Redness and soreness in mouth or burning mouth
- Redness and soreness in tongue or burning tongue
- Muscle weakness
- Chest pain
- Legs pain
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Color blindness
- Decrease in sensitivity towards vibration
- Numbness and tingling sensation in hands or feet
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty with body coordination
- Menstrual problems
- Shortness in breath
- Reduced sense of touch
- Memory loss
Even a moderate vitamin B12 deficiency and its counterpart folic acid, may lead to Alzheimer’s disease and other cases of dementia.
Common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency in detail
Wight loss is due to inadequate amounts of vitamin B12 in body. Excessive weight loss can also lead to weakness, sleeplessness and gastrointestinal problems.
Lack of vitamin B12 can cause several disorders in gastrointestinal tract. Poor mucosal function and glossitis are few symptoms, which might initially show up. Elderly persons in their late 70’s are at a higher risk of developing Vitamin B12 deficiency. In addition, Research studies mentioned that 20% of people above 65 years have lower levels of vitamin B12 in their body. 10 around 70 people in their early 70’s suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. Asymptomatic atrophic gastritis is one such disease seen in elderly people and this is caused due to depleted stores of this vitamin in body.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to psychiatric problems. However, few psychiatric symptoms that show up are due to several other deficiencies as well. Confusion, poor memory or memory loss are common symptoms. Mood swings, reduced cognitive function, depression, personality changes are few other symptoms.
Tingling sensation in hands and foot is due to neurological or poor circulation problems. Adequate amounts of vitamin B12 intake can treat this symptom. If you are not getting enough of this vitamin, the condition might further worsen and it may lead to deafness or blindness. Memory loss, confusion or poor memory, psychosis and hallucinations occur at severe stages of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Shortness in breath
Shortness in breath is due to lack of vitamin B12. This condition occurs because vitamin B12 is not being absorbed properly.
Am I vitamin B12 deficient?
Your doctor can check whether you are suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency or not through blood or urine test known as Methylmalonic acid test (MMA test). This test shows accurate results unlike the standard blood test conducted by doctors for testing pernicious anemia and serum cobalamin levels. Depending on the results of this test, you will be treated with supplements, diet rich in B12 or you might be injected with a dose of vitamin B12, when proper absorption of B12 is not done through digestion process.
What is the recommended intake of Vitamin B12 per day?
- Children above 14 need an intake of 2.4micrograms of Vitamin B12 per day.
- Breastfeeding mothers need to include 2.8micrograms of vitamin B12 in their daily routine.
- Pregnant women can consume 2.6 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily.
- Older people must intake of 100micrograms of vitamin B12 every day.
Vitamin B12, when consumed in a large quantity will be either excreted from the body or stored within the liver for further usage when the supply of vitamin B12 is in scarce.