Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms

Vitamin B12 is a vitamin responsible for the normal physiology of the brain, the nervous system as well as blood formation. It is also called as cobalamin which is a water soluble vitamin that is involved in cellular metabolism, fatty acid synthesis and even energy production.

When a patient has vitamin b12 deficiency, it is most likely linked with pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disease that destroys the parietal cells. These cells are found in the stomach that secretes intrinsic factor, which is vital in digestion. This kind of anemia cannot be cured but it can be treated and lifespan is prolonged especially if the problem is not treated right away.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Causes

There are many causes of vitamin B12 deficiency. One of the most common causes is the diet. A vegan diet is at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because vitamin B12 is mostly from animal products like eggs, meat, and milk. Vegan diets don’t take these types of foods. Additionally, vegan people don’t take fortified foods.

Another cause of this problem is with bowel problem. This happens in post operative surgery for bowel resection. Vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed well into the bloodstream especially in cases of short bowel syndrome. This is a condition wherein half or more than half of the small intestine is removed because of a problem or certain condition.
Aside from nausea, vomiting, a generalized malabsorption or maldigestion can happen.

Chron’s disease can also be a cause for vitamin B12 deficiency. Another cause is the intestinal infection like fish tapeworm.

Endocrine problems like diabetes and taking in metformin can hinder in the absoption of vitamin B12. Other problems like chronic alcoholism, nitrous oxide abuse and even impaired genes can cause vitamin B12 deficiency.

Schilling test is the most reliable and widely used in diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency. There are 4 stages in diagnosing the problem the first stage wherein the patient is given a radiolabed vitamin B12 to drink and eat. An intramuscular Vitamin B12 is also given. The purpose of this problem is to saturate the B12 receptors in the liver. Also, a urine specimen is taken in the first 24 hours. In the next stage, a second urine specimen is taken results will be shown that
there is a low or lacking intrinsic factor. The third and fourth stage includes identification of bacterial growth that is why taking antibiotics is necessary and pancreatic enzymes are also checked.

A molecule of vitamin b12 (cyanocobalamin)
A molecule of vitamin b12 (cyanocobalamin)

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms

According to medical professionals, the symptoms can vary among individuals who have vitamin b12 deficiency. Also, it depends on the cause of the problem. Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • chest pains
  • some palpitations
  • cold hands and feet
  • anemia because of the decrease production of red blood cells

Since pernicious anemia is linked with vitamin B12 deficiency, it also affects the gastrointestinal system. Patients may exhibit signs and symptoms such as:

  • Hepatomegaly or enlarged liver can be seen when palpated in the right
  • upper quadrant of the abdominal area.
  • nausea and/vomiting
  • heartburn
  • abdominal bloating
  • constipation
  • frequent passing of gas
  • Loss of appetite and eventually weight loss.

Vitamin B12 is also responsible for neurologic functions like sense of balance, walking, thinking and many others. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause problems like:

  • difficulty walking
  • confusion
  • depression
  • memory loss
  • tingling  sensation of the hands and feet
  • numbness
  • Memory loss may also be noticed which can lead to dementia.

Apart from these, there are also other signs and symptoms which include:

  • Pale lips
  • Brittle nails
  • Paresthesia
  • Jaundice
  • Ataxia
  • Lightheadedness
  • Swollen red tongue sometimes it is itchy
  • Sore mouth
  • Disturbed sleep or abnormal sleeping pattern
  • Sores on the mouth
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath after exercise
  • Enlarged spleen

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms in Children

There are 11 conditions wherein vitamin B12 deficiency is experienced by a child. This includes juvenile pernicious anemia, Chron’s Disease, intestinal malabsorption of vitamin B12, dietary problems, H. pylori infection, fish tapeworm problems, surgical resection of terminal ileum and many others. Treatment for this problem depends on what the doctors advise because they also consider the severity of the problem.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms in Adults

If an adult experiences the signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, they feel the necessary symptoms like pale lips, jaundice skin, lightheadedness, body fatigue, significantly low red blood cells difficulty concentrating, and many others.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms of Women

In women, especially the pregnant ones, it is important take in the necessary vitamins, regular checkup, eating the right foods and exercise. One of the most important vitamins a pregnant woman should take is Vitamin B12. This vitamin is necessary and works hand in hand with folic acid to help in the production of red blood cells. Aside from that, it is necessary in development in the fetal brain and its nervous system. As such, they should consume about 2.6 mcg or about 104 IU of vitamin B12 per day.  In breastfeeding mothers a suggested 2.8 mcg of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 can be found in the following food selection: red meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products, shellfish. For those in vegan diet, they can still have an intake of vitamin B12. They just have to select vitamin B12 fortified tofu and even soymilk.

Foods Highest in Vitamin B12
Foods highest in vitamin b12 (cobalamin) on a wooden background. healthy diet.

A research was found out that a lack of vitamin B12 and folate intake can lead to neural tube defects to infants about 50 to 70%. This was further strengthened by a study done to about 1,200 Irish women wherein they were divided into 3 groups wherein these women have hit the neural tube defect.

Severe Vitamin b12 Deficiency Symptoms

For those patients with severe Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, they exhibit worst problems especially in the neurologic area. They can have impaired perception of deep touch, pressure vibration, persistent paresthesia, ataxia which is the dorsal cord type, decrease abolishment of deep tendon reflexes, babinski reflex, and sever paresis. Sometimes, this is problem can cause irreversible damage to the body.

The treatment of Vitamin B12 deficiency includes injection of hydroxocobalamin. This is a form of vitamin B12 wherein it is injected every 2 to 4 days into the muscle. This is the traditional used of giving vitamin B12. For patients who are afraid of injections, they have an option to take oral pills that has Vitamin B12. This can be in form of sublingual pill where it is placed at the back of the tongue. It can also be in form of liquid or strip, or intranasal spray.

Vitamin B12 is essential in diets and these can be found in meat products, poultry, eggs and dairy products. A recommended daily allowance or RDA is about 97% to 98% in taking all the necessary nutrients for the body. There are different recommended dietary allowances of Vitamin B12 that can be taken by different age groups.

For children in 0-6 months, both male and female is expected to take about 0.4 mcg. For children from 7 months to a year, both male and female needs to take about 0.5 mcg; the same amount of 0.9 mcg should be taken by children from 1-3 years old; 1.2 mcg should be taken by both sexes in years 4-8; 1.8 mcg of Vitamin B12 should be taken by children from 9-13 years old. Lastly, from 14 years old and above, both men and women should take 2.4 mcg, 2.6 mcg  for pregnant women and 2.8 mcg for those lactating.


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