Vitamin B12 is a crucial water-soluble vitamin which is also known as cobalamin. It plays an important role in red blood cells synthesis and DNA production. It is also critical for adequate functioning of our nervous system. However, vitamin B12 deficiency is common, especially among the geriatric population. Deficiency can be due to low intake of B12 or due to its poor absorption in the body.
People at risk of B12 deficiency:
Any surgery involving removal of part of bowel required for B12 absorption
Individuals taking metformin drugs for diabetes management
Individuals following a vegan diet
Prolonged consumption of antacid to prevent heartburn
Symptoms of B12 deficiency
Individuals with B12 deficiency can become anaemic. However, mild deficiency may lead to no symptoms. But if untreated, it can lead to symptoms such as:
Pale or Jaundiced Skin
Lack of B12 interferes with the body’s ability to produce Red Blood Cells. Due to the low number of RBC in blood, the skin looks pale and yellowish.
Weakness and Fatigue
When you are deficient in B12, your body isn’t able to produce enough red blood cells to effectively transport oxygen throughout your body. This can make you feel tired and weak.
Sensations of Pins and Needles
B12 plays an important role in the production of myelin, which insulates your nerves and is critical to your nervous system function. A usual sign of nerve damage in B12 deficiency is a sensation of needles and pins.
Changes to Mobility
The damage caused by long-term, untreated B12 deficiency can affect your balance and cause changes to the way you walk and move.
Glossitis and Mouth Ulcers
An early symptom of B12 deficiency can be a red and swollen tongue.
Breathlessness and Dizziness
Anaemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can cause some people to feel breathless and dizzy. This occurs when the body is unable to transport enough oxygen to all its cells.
In rare cases, the nervous system damage caused by a B12 deficiency can affect the optic nerve. This can result in blurred or disturbed vision.
Some people with B12 may show signs of a depressed mood or conditions characterized by a decline in brain function, such as dementia.
On very rare occasions individuals with B12 deficiency may suffer from high temperature.
How to manage Vitamin B 12 deficiency
Usually, B12 deficiency is easy to treat with adequate diet and B12 supplements. To increase the quantity of B12 in diet, eat more of food products that contain it, such as:
Liver and chicken
Fish and shellfish such as trout, salmon, tuna fish, and clams
Fortified breakfast cereal
Low-fat milk, yoghurt, and cheese
If levels of B12 falls very low in the body, higher-dose vitamin shots may be recommended. But meeting the daily requirement of B12 is important. If you let it go for too long, it can damage your heart, brain, nerves, bones, and other organs in your body. With treatment, you should feel better and avoid any long-term problems. For most people, B12 deficiency should be easy to prevent simply by ensuring you are getting enough B12 in your diet.