Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: The unsettling sensation that could signal you lack B12

Vitamin B12 plays a pivotal role in the body by keeping nerve and blood cells healthy and helping to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. The vitamin is absorbed from eating certain foods and if you follow a particular diet, or have an underlying condition that inhibits your ability to obtain the vitamin, you run the risk of developing a B12 deficiency. The symptoms you experience as a result will depend on the underlying cause of your deficiency.

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A B12 deficiency caused by anaemia, for example, produces a range of distinctive symptoms.

As the NHS explains, anaemia is a condition in which the blood carries too few red blood cells or you have an abnormally low amount of a substance called haemoglobin in each red blood cell.

Because red blood cells carry oxygen to all tissues of the body, anaemia can make it difficult for tissues to get the oxygen they need.

One symptom that can arise as a result of not getting enough oxygen in your tissues is lightheadedness, according to Harvard Health.

Other symptoms

  • If you have anaemia caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, you may also experience:
  • A pale yellow tinge to your skin
  • A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • Changes in the way that you walk and move around
  • Disturbed vision
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Changes in the way you think, feel and behave
  • A decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement (dementia)
  • According to the NHS, some of these symptoms can also happen in people who have a vitamin B12 deficiency but have not developed anaemia.

When should I see a GP?

The health body advises seeing a GP if you experience any of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia.

As the health site explains, these conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.

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It’s also imperative that you get the symptoms checked out as soon as possible.

The NHS explains: “Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.”

How to treat a B12 deficiency

Akin to the symptoms, the treatment for a vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what’s causing the condition.

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.

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There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin

If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, on the other hand, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals, explains the NHS.

How to to top up the vitamin through your diet

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in meat, oily fish, milk and other dairy products, and eggs

People who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life, notes the NHS.

B12 can also be found in alternative sources to animal-based products, however.

Yeast extract (including Marmite), as well as some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products all contain B12.

To ensure you are getting enough of it in your diet, you should check the nutrition labels while food shopping to see how much vitamin B12 different foods contain.

It is important to note that you’ll usually need to have an injection of hydroxocobalamin every two to three months for the rest of your life if your deficiency is not dietary related, adds the NHS.

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