Do you feel fatigued or general weakness? Are you battling depression and sometimes experience confusion or memory loss? Dizziness? Shortness of breath? While it might be easy to lump these symptoms in with some other disorder, these are also Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) performs important roles in neurologic function as well as DNA synthesis and a deficiency can cause a wide range of neuropsychiatric and hematologic disorders. These are often reversed with early diagnosis and treatment.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms are associated with neurologic, hematologic, and psychiatric manifestations. Symptoms can vary widely, depending on the severity of the vitamin B12 deficiency, the individual, underlying causes and other factors. The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency ,ay not be immediately noticeable, can be vague and can take years to develop.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency can affect the nervous system, the gastrointestinal tract and the cardiovascular system. Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include:
- Depression or mood changes
- Memory loss, confusion or dementia
- Weakness or fatigue
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Heart palpitations or chest pain
- Dizziness, fainting or trouble maintaining balance
- Coldness, numbness or tingling of hands and feet
- Shortness of breath
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin) or pale skin
- Poor appetite, stomach upset, weight loss
- Sore mouth and tongue
- Easy bleeding (including bleeding gums) and easy bruising
The prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiencies is largely unknown but it appears to increase as people age. One study found that 15 percent of adults 65 years and older had vitamin B12 deficiency laboratory evidence. Some believe that the actual vitamin B12 deficiency prevalence may be higher. Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms in women are sometimes masked by menopause.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by a number of factors. This condition typically occurs in people with digestive systems that do not properly absorb the vitamin from foods eaten. This can be caused by:
- Pernicious anemia: The condition where there is a lack of a intrinsic factor protein. This protein, made in the stomach, is needed for the absorption of vitamin B12.
- Atrophic gastritis: This stomach lining thinning affects up to 30 percent of those 50 years and older.
- Surgery that has removed part of the small intestine and/or stomach.
- Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, bacterial growth, or other conditions affecting the small intestine.
- Long-term and excess consumption of alcohol.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus, Graves’ disease and other autoimmune disorders, such as Graves’ disease or
- Long-term or excessive acid-reducing drugs use
Vitamin B12 deficiency also can occur in those following a vegetarian diet, with vegans (those who do not eat any animal products) at the greatest risk. Animal products are the best food sources of vitamin B12 are animal products. If following a vegan or vegetarian diet, speak with your doctor about B12 supplementation. Experts also recommend taking a multivitamin containing B12 and also eating breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12.
B12 replacement is the standard treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms. Vitamin B12 injections are the most common and accepted method of treating people with the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 shots are injected directly into the blood stream. While some doctors insist on the person coming to the office for a shot, these shots can be given at home with a prescription from the doctor.
While B12 is most often given by injection, some may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets. Supplementation may be required for life for some people. Treatment will resolve anemia but any nerve damage that occurred because of the deficiency might be permanent.