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Home > Blog > Vitamin B12 Deficiency : Symptoms, Causes, Test & Treatment

Vitamin B12 Deficiency : Symptoms, Causes, Test & Treatment

Vitamin B12 Deficiency : Symptoms, Causes, Test & Treatment

Max Lab

Aug 30, 2022

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin or cyanocobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that is present in the body and helps in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and myelin. Vitamin B12 is also an essential vitamin that is required for the development of red blood cells in the body and is usually stored and maintained in the liver. The levels of Vitamin B12 can eventually become deficient if an individual’s diet does not help maintain the level that is required. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can cause physical, psychological and neurological problems if not treated on time. The human body does not produce Vitamin B12 on its own. Hence, people have to depend on external sources like food and drinks that contain Vitamin B12 to meet their needs.

There are two essential things required for the proper absorption of Vitamin B12 by the body. First is the hydrochloric acid that is present in the stomach, which extracts vitamin B12 from the food that an individual consumes. Secondly, Vitamin B12 combines with intrinsic factors released by the parietal cells for it to be absorbed by the digestive system. Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to the body not having enough red blood cells because of a lack of Vitamin B12. Without an adequate amount of red blood cells, the tissues and organs do not get enough oxygen. Normal levels of Vitamin B12 change by age and are affected by several other factors like having a sedentary lifestyle or an unhealthy diet. Vitamin B12 deficiency may also happen when an individual has undergone a weight loss surgery or any other operation that includes the removal of a part of the stomach.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency may vary from person to person and can develop over time, depending on the severity of the deficiency. It may also cause no symptoms despite having a low Vitamin B12 in the body for quite a period. Some people with Vitamin B12 deficiency may suffer hematological, physical, neurological, or psychological symptoms, which can develop slowly and can get worse over time if not treated. General symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue

Having an inadequate amount of Vitamin B12 in the body can result in decreased production of RBCs which eventually leads to feeling weak and fatigued.

  • Pale Skin

Due to the lack of fully-matured and healthy red blood cells in the body, vitamin B12 deficiency often results in pale or yellow skin.

  • Weight Loss

Vitamin B12 deficiency often leads to a loss of appetite than usual which ultimately leads to weight loss.

  • Feeling of Depression

Vitamin B12 is vital for the proper functioning of the nervous system. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 results in symptoms related to an individual’s mental health and can lead to depression in the long run.

  • Canker Sores

People with Vitamin B12 deficiency suffer from oral manifestation issues like canker sores that affect one’s oral health.

  • Headache

Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to neurological issues which can lead to severe headaches in both adults and kids.

  • Numbness in Hands and Feet

In medical terminology, numbness in the hands and feet due to Vitamin B12 deficiency is known as Paresthesia which causes a burning or pins-and-needles sensation in certain areas of the body, like the hands and feet.

  • Muscle Cramps

Vitamin B12 deficiency adversely affects motor and sensory nerve function which results in muscle cramps which is one of the most common signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency.

  • Vision Disturbance

One of the major signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency that a person may experience is vision problems due to damage to the optic nerves.

Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in an individual due to multiple factors, like if they don’t eat enough food containing Vitamin B12 or if the body has trouble absorbing or processing the vitamin. Conditions that may cause Vitamin B12 deficiency also include:

  • Improper Dietary Intake

Vitamin B12 is highly rich in food like meat, eggs, and milk. Lack of Vitamin B12 in one’s diet is one of the main causes of vitamin deficiency.

  • Pernicious Anaemia

Pernicious anaemia is a rare medical condition where the body is not capable of producing intrinsic factors, a protein made by the stomach. People with pernicious anaemia face issues with absorbing Vitamin B12 in the intestines.

  • Gastritis

Gastritis is a common cause of Vitamin B12 deficiency and is caused by inflammation in the stomach lining.

  • Gastric Surgery

People who have undergone gastric surgery, where a portion of the stomach or intestines has been surgically removed can cause Vitamin B12 deficiency in the long run as well.

  • Digestive Issues

Digestive issues like Cohn’s disease and Celiac disease can lead to problems related to absorbing Vitamin B12.

  • Alcohol Misuse

People with heavy alcohol consumption make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients and prevent them from eating enough calories.

  • Transcobalamin II Deficiency

Transcobalamin II deficiency is another rare medical condition that impairs the transport of Vitamin B 12 in the body.

In addition to this, certain medications which interfere with the absorption of Vitamin B12 in the body can eventually lead to a deficiency in the body. Hence, it is advised to consult a healthcare professional in case a person has been diagnosed with Vitamin B12 deficiency and is on some medication for other health conditions.

Tests for Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be diagnosed by a healthcare professional with the help of the following tests:

  • Vitamin B12 Blood Test

A haematological test can help in determining the level of Vitamin B12 in an individual. Serum Vitamin B12 levels that are less than 200 pg/ml in an individual are classified as a vitamin B12 deficiency. The Vitamin B12 test also determines the level of Vitamin B12 and folate in the blood and the presence of antibodies for the intrinsic factors, which is an indicator of pernicious anaemia.

Treatment for Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Treatment for a Vitamin B12 deficiency will vary depending on the severity of the condition. Depending on the level and symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency, an individual may have to undergo treatment until they are back to normal B12 levels. Treatment for Vitamin B12 deficiency includes:

  • Vitamin B12 oral medication
  • Injection supplementation of vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B12 nasal gel or nasal spray

Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that is required at optimum levels for the healthy functioning of the body. Ensuring proper dietary intake and introducing vitamin B12 into the diet can help a person overcome Vitamin B12 deficiency easily. If an individual is experiencing signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency, it is advisable to contact a healthcare professional to get a blood test done, so treatment for the same can be started.

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