Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes & Prevention
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is essential for various metabolic activities in the body. Therefore, the lack of this nutrient can lead to major health issues. Vitamin B12 deficiency, for instance, can cause anaemia and serious damage to the nervous system.
Keep scrolling to know about the various causes and symptoms of low vitamin B12.
What Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is caused due to an insufficient amount of cobalamin in the body. This can manifest as a reaction to the loss of intrinsic gastric factor that helps absorb B12 components from the food source.
It can restrict the production of red blood cells in the body. Moreover, it severely affects the functioning of the nervous system.
Lack of vitamin B12 can cause anaemia and other health problems in humans. This issue is quite common in females who go through severe menstruation pain and fatigue.
Pernicious anaemia can also cause Vitamin B12 deficiency when a person's immune system reduces the absorption of cobalamin.
Apart from these medical conditions, a poor diet or certain medications can lead to the deficiency of vitamin B12. Hence, it is essential to understand and recognise the vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms and opt for immediate medical attention.
What Are the Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms?
An individual with vitamin B12 deficiency may notice some of these general symptoms listed below:
- Canker sores or mouth ulcers
- Numbness or other strange sensations in the hands, legs or feet
- Pale yellow skin colour
- Memory loss
- Mood or behaviour swings
- Vision disturbances
- Difficulty in walking
- Difficulty in thinking or confusion
The conditions can worsen over time and give rise to other diseases.
In some instances, an individual may come across no symptoms at all of this deficiency. Nonetheless, taking precautions like consuming a vitamin B12-rich diet is recommended.
What Causes Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
If you are wondering what causes vitamin B12 deficiency, keep reading to get an in-depth idea.
Vitamin B12 needs to be absorbed by the body. For this, it binds with an intrinsic factor protein in the stomach. Typically, the cells in the stomach lining produce this protein. However, in conditions with pernicious anaemia, the body's immune system erroneously attacks these cells. This prevents the intrinsic factors from getting absorbed and bind with vitamin B12.
It is an autoimmune condition that affects individuals over 50 years old. Pernicious anaemia is a common disease in women.
In certain cases, genetic conditions can be a reason for the disease. It affects patients with autoimmune conditions like Addison's disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Disorders in Stomach and Intestines
Individuals with stomach and intestinal problems are prone to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. In certain cases, surgeries can also create the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Intestinal problems: The conditions where the lining of the digestive tract is inflamed can generate vitamin B12 deficiency risks. Conditions like celiac disease, Crohn's disease, chronic tropical sprue, etc., are some conditions that may lead to this deficiency.
Stomach conditions: Individuals suffering from atrophic gastritis have a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency. This disease causes thinning of the stomach lining and raises the risk of Helicobacter pylori bacterial infections.
Surgery: In certain conditions, the surgical procedures conducted to remove part or all of the intestine or stomach can prevent sufficient absorption of vitamin B12.
Inadequate Dietary Intake
Diet plays a vital role in managing the nutritional requirements of humans. The lack of vitamin B12-rich food can lead to deficiency.
Some of the issues caused by this deficiency are discussed next. Keep reading
What Are the Health Issues Caused by Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause multiple complications in the body. However, the severity can vary from person to person.
- Neurological complications: Insufficient vitamin B12 levels can give rise to severe neurological issues. This includes memory loss, pain in body parts, poor vision, peripheral neuropathy, difficulty in speaking and walking, etc.
- Neural tube weaknesses- The foetus is at higher risk if a pregnant woman suffers from vitamin B12 deficiency. This can lead to premature birth or increase the chances of congenital disabilities like spina bifida.
- Infertility- Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect a woman's reproductive capability. This leads to issues with conceiving. However, the conditions are reversible with proper treatment.
- Stomach cancer- Pernicious anaemia, one of the leading causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, increases the chances of stomach cancer.
How to Overcome Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
- An individual should consult a doctor and get the vitamin B12 levels checked.
- Individuals with celiac and Crohn's disease that restrict vitamin B12 absorption should consult a doctor. They should follow the instructions and adhere to the medications prescribed.
- Strict vegans and individuals over 50 years old should consult a dietician and follow the suggested meal plan. They can increase the consumption of cereals, bread, fortified breakfast cereal, fresh fruits and vegetables.
How Long Does It Take to Cure Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Individuals who maintain a proper diet and healthy lifestyle are likely to overcome vitamin B12 deficiency faster. It can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to completely recover from the deficiency.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a serious issue that can still be avoided by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The first step to achieve this goal is consuming nutritious food.
So, eat healthily and stay active!