Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. It is also known as cobalamin. It plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells and DNA and supports proper functioning of the nervous system.
The body does not produce vitamin B12, which is why it is important to take a diet rich in it.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 arises if the food you eat is lacking in it or if the body is not able to absorb this vitamin from the diet.
Elderly people, those undergone bowel surgeries, diabetic, those taking a strict vegan diet, or those taking the antacid drug are at the highest risk of suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency (1).
Foods rich in vitamin B12 are fortified cereals, plant milk, bread, nutritional yeast, red meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish.
8 Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can take years to show up, which make the diagnosis complex. It is often sometimes mistaken for folate deficiency.
The signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are as follows:
Those with vitamin B12 deficiency have a pale and jaundiced skin look. There is a yellow tinge in the white of the eye as well. This occurs as the red cell production of the body is affected due to the deficiency (2).
The deficiency also affects the red blood cell division leading to large blood cells which are unable to pass out of the bone marrow which decreases the number of red blood cells in the body giving it a pale appearance.
The red blood cells become fragile and breakdown causing an excess of bilirubin which gives a yellow tinge to the skin and eyes (3, 4).
Weakness and Fatigue
Megaloblastic anemia due to deficient vitamin B12 may lead to a person feeling fatigued.
This occurs due to a lack of red blood cells to carry enough oxygen all around the body causing a weak and tired feeling.
Tingling in Hand And Feet
Nerve damage is a serious side effect of vitamin B12 deficiency. It occurs over time and causes a sensation of pins and needles in hand and feet.
It happens because vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in the development of the myelin sheath which protects and insulates the nerves. Without enough vitamin B12, the myelin is produced differently which damages the nerves and also affects the functioning of the nervous system.
This gives a numb feeling especially in the peripheral nerves which lead to tingling in the related parts of the body.
Difficulty in Walking
Due to damage to the nervous system because of vitamin B12 deficiency, over time trouble in walking develops.
Numbness and tingling make it hard for the person to walk properly or without support.
The symptom is often diagnosed in the elderly over the age of 60 years. Treating the deficiency may help improve mobility (5, 6).
The symptoms can also be seen in younger people who have a severe deficiency which has not been treated.
Mouth Ulcers And Glossitis
Some people with vitamin B12 deficiency might experience mouth ulcers which can give a sensation of burning and itching in the mouth (7).
Also swollen and inflamed tongue with log straight lesion can be an early sign of vitamin B12 deficiency. The condition is known as glossitis (8). It is a painful condition and can change the way you eat and speak.
Blurred and a disturbed vision is another sign of vitamin B12 deficiency. It occurs if the deficiency is untreated for a long time which leads to nervous system damage, damaging the optic nerve that leads to the eye (9).
This impairs the nervous signals which travel from the eye to the brain, impairing vision.
The condition can be reversed by starting Vitamin B12 supplements.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been related to mood and brain disorders such as dementia and depression (10, 11).
It is suggested that high levels of homocysteine caused by low vitamin B12 levels cause damage to the brain tissue and interfere with the signals from the brain, affecting mood.
Supplementing vitamin B12 can improve the mood and can also reverse symptoms.
Breathlessness and Dizziness
As vitamin B12 deficiency causes anemia, there may be shortness of breath and dizziness experienced by the person.
It occurs due to lack of oxygen supply to the body cells.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a very common condition which is difficult to identify. However, it can be prevented by taking a sufficient amount of B12 in the diet.
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