Knowing The Signs Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is a critical part of a healthy diet because the vitamin is needed to produce new red blood cells. Too few red blood cells can lead to a condition called anemia. Blood cells are required to transport oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Without the nutrients and oxygen, people can feel very ill. B12 is also essential for the spinal cord, muscle, and nerve function. B12 can only be found in food or supplements.
What causes vitamin B12 deficiency?
A vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by low vitamin B levels either by a lack of vitamin B through the diet or an inability to absorb the vitamin. People who eat a lot of animal products, are malnourished, or follow strict diets can be at risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. Poor absorption can be caused by certain bowel diseases, alcohol abuse, medications, and a lack of a protein needed to absorb the vitamin.
Signs of deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency can range in symptoms and severity by the person. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, lack of appetite, lack of focus, unusual bowel habits, shortness of breath, pale skin, confusion, and numbness in the hands and feet. These symptoms of a deficiency are often slow to develop.
A healthcare provider can perform a physical examination and look for signs and symptoms associated with vitamin B12 deficiencies. A doctor will individually test a person’s nervous system, such as reflexes, memory, strength, and sensation in the extremities. Blood tests can measure B12 levels, and stomach or intestinal testing can find underlying issues.
A healthy diet is the best treatment
Vitamin B12 can stem from a variety of causes. The best way to treat the deficiency is to increase the level of vitamin B12, primarily through a healthy diet. Some substances can reduce B12 absorption, so moderating the use of medication, alcohol, and gluten can help. Oral supplements and injections can be last-ditch efforts for treatment.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are not considered common. Signs and symptoms can be easily treated early to prevent permanent damage. People with a healthy diet don’t need to worry about the deficiency. For those at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency, however, eating vitamin B-rich foods can go a long way. Speak with a pharmacist or healthcare provider for more information about starting a B12 supplement.