Vitamin B12 deficiency: Are you lacking the essential vitamin? Symptoms to look our for
Vitamin B12 is involved in making red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy, releasing energy from food and using folic acid. Folic acid, otherwise known as vitamin B9, helps the body to form healthy red blood cells, and reduces the risk of central neural tube defects. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, but are unable to do so properly if there are too few of them or if they are abnormally large. Abnormally large blood cells can be produced in people who are deficient in vitamin B12.
So how do you know if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency?
There are an array of symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, including extreme tiredness, a lack of energy, pins and needles and muscle weakness.
Other symptoms include breathlessness, feeling faint, headaches, pale skin, heart palpitations, loss of appetite and weight loss.
It can also cause a sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, disturbed vision, and problems with memory, understanding and judgement.
Vitamin B12 deficiency may also lead to psychological problems such as depression and confusion.
Symptoms usually develop gradually but can worse if the condition goes untreated.
“See your GP if you think you may have a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency. These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” said the NHS.
“It’s important for vitamin B12 deficiency to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible because, although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible.”
Complications associated with vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with the nervous system, temporary infertility, heart conditions and pregnancy complications.
Complications are uncommon, but can happen in people who have been deficient in B12 for some time.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be usually be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.
B12 supplements are usually given by injection at first. If the deficiency is related to a lack of B12 in your diet, you may require tablets between meals.
Foods containing B12 include meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs, yeast extract and some fortified breakfast cereals.
UK health officials advise adults between the ages of 19 and 64 get about 1.5 micrograms of vitamin 12 per day.
In some cases, improving your diet can help treat vitamin B12 deficiency and prevent it from recurring.
But if vitamin B12 deficiency is unrelated to your diet, you may have to be treated with injections for the rest of your life.