Nine Common Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency


Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include pale skin, fatigue, needle-like sensation, glossitis, breathlessness, hampered vision, and high temperatures. Vitamin B12 supplements can correct these symptoms.

Vitamin B12 is popular for its role in the production of DNA and red blood cells and is also needed for the efficient functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin B12 IS commonly found virtually in all animal products such as dairy, meat, eggs, fish, and poultry. Some foods that lack the vitamin are also fortified with vitamin B12, such as some bread and plant-based milk. Vitamin B12 deficiency commonly seen in older adults and vegetarians is due to diets lacking this vitamin or the body’s inability to absorb enough vitamin.

People At Risk of B12 Deficiency

Some categories of people at risk of this essential vitamin include people on a strict vegan diet, the elderly with difficulty absorbing the vitamin, individuals who underwent surgery removing the part that absorbs the vitamin, and those on long-term antiacid drugs for chronic heartburn. The deficiency symptoms are not easy to recognize and could take considerably long before they are diagnosed since their deficiency symptoms are often confused with folate deficiency.

Symptoms And Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Jaundiced Or Pale Skin

Vitamin B12 deficiency often makes the skin slightly yellow, and the eyes will look relatively white, a condition called jaundice. The paleness of the skin could be due to the low production of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is vital for forming DNA that channels information about the production of red blood cells and cell division. A deficiency of this vitamin means that such information on cell division will be incomplete, leading to megaloblastic anemia. This condition results from a lack of cell division DNA, leading to large and fragile red blood cells from the bone marrow. Since these red blood cells are large, they can pass from the bone marrow into the bloodstream, meaning you will have fewer red blood cells in circulation, hence the pale appearance of the skin. The fragility of the large blood cells causes the release of excess red or a brown-colored compound called bilirubin which gives your eyes and skin the yellow tinge.

Fatigue And the Feeling of Weakness

Weakness and fatigue occur because vitamin B12 deficiency leads to low red blood cells that could transport oxygen through the body. Inadequate oxygen circulation throughout the body causes a feeling of tiredness and weakness. Vitamin B12 deficiency in older adults causes anemia called pernicious anemia due to their autoimmune condition. Older people may not produce enough intrinsic factor that helps in the absorption of vitamin B12 in your gut.

Needle Or Pin-Like Sensations

Long-term vitamin B12 deficiency may result in nerve damage resulting in some serious side effects. Vitamin B12 enhances the efficiency of the metabolic pathway that is responsible for producing fatty substances called the myelin sheath. Myelin covers the nerves in a bid to protect and insulate them from damage. Vitamin B12 deficiency affects the production and the effectiveness of myelin, meaning the function of the nervous system will be hampered, causing paresthesia or needle-like sensation. Though many things can cause this sensation, vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the causes worth examining.

Changes In Mobility

As already discussed, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to potential nerve damage, and if left untreated, it could affect the way a person moves. In some instances, it could hamper a person’s ability to coordinate and balance, leading to frequent falls. This sign is common with the elderly, who may have been diagnosed with the deficiency, but the condition can improve if the deficiency is treated. This symptom is also common in young people having a severe untreated deficiency.

Mouth Ulcers and Glossitis

An inflamed tongue is called glossitis, characterized by a change in shape and color of your tongue, making it swollen, red, and painful. The tongue could also appear smooth as the tongue ridges, and the taste buds swell and disappear. Glossitis may distort a person’s eating and speaking manner due to tongue inflammation. Mouth ulcers and a feeling of needles and pins in one’s tongue can also be a symptom of vitamin B12deficiency. Your mouth may feel an itchy sensation regularly, sending you a sign of possible deficiency.

Dizziness And Running Out of Breath

Anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can make individuals feel dizzy and feel short breath if they exert themselves. This feeling is due to inadequate red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of the body. However, dizziness and breathlessness are not necessarily deficient in vitamin B12; therefore, if you experience regular symptoms is vital to speak to a physician to determine the cause.

Hampered Vision

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause disturbed or blurred vision, especially if left untreated, causing the damage of optic nerve in the eyes. If the optic nerve is damaged, the consequence will be a disruption of the nervous signal that joins the brain and the eye, causing optic neuropathy. Individuals with this condition can reverse it by consuming vitamin B12 supplements.

Mood Changes

Several studies link low vitamin B12 to mood changes and brain conditions such as dementia and depression. The homocysteine theory of depression can explain the link between vitamin B12 deficiency and change in moods. According to the theory, low levels of vitamin B12 results in increased homocysteine levels that could damage brain tissues, thus interfering with brain signals responsible for moods.

Some studies suggest that the condition is reversible through vitamin B12 supplements. However, it is essential to know that depression and dementia have many causes apart from vitamin B12 deficiency.  Those deficient in a vitamin can improve their moods by taking vitamin supplements or using medical therapies to help treat dementia or depression.

High Temperature

High temperature has also been associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Though it is not clear why this relationship exists, some doctors have treated this symptom by administering vitamin B12 supplements. Remember that high fiver is a symptom for many illnesses, not just B12 deficiency alone.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin B12 deficiency is sometimes difficult to identify as it presents itself in different ways. In some cases, it is realized when it has done more damage to the body and the nervous system. Unless your body finds it difficult to absorb this vitamin, it is easily found in most food, especially animal products.

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