While anaemia due to a vitamin B12 deficiency develops gradually, the body will somewhat adapt to the lower-quality red blood cells. Thus, symptoms of anaemia might appear mild when anaemia is in fact well developed. Global healthcare leader, MSD, listed the symptoms of anaemia, which include: paleness, weakness and fatigue. However, if anaemia is “severe”, three problematic signs of the condition include dizziness, shortness of breath, and a rapid heart rate.
Nerve damage can ensue, which can be felt as tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
Down the line, such symptoms can affect mobility, reducing a person’s ability to walk properly.
When neurological damage takes place, some people may become confused, irritable, and mildly depressed.
Impaired mental function could occur, and dementia might take hold – stressing the importance of an early diagnosis of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
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A routine blood test, arranged by your doctor, can help detect abnormally shaped red blood cells – an indicator of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Once the deficiency is addressed by taking high doses of vitamin B12 supplementation, then the signs of anaemia can dissipate.
However, should nerve and cognitive damage have occurred due to the deficiency, such symptoms might be permanent.
Furthermore, extended low reserves of vitamin B12 might need to be remedied by life-long vitamin B12 injections, administered by medical staff.
What causes a vitamin B12 deficiency?
The most common cause of a vitamin B12 deficiency is inadequate absorption, which can be caused by a variety of reasons.
For instance, an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines could be one underlying factor.
Another could be a lack of intrinsic factor – a protein – in the stomach, caused by a condition caused pernicious anaemia.
Pernicious anaemia is an acquired autoimmune condition whereby the body attacks the stomach cells, which are responsible for making intrinsic factor.
Intrinsic factor is needed to attach itself to vitamin B12 in the stomach.
That way, when the nutrient is moving along the intestines, vitamin B12 – if attached by intrinsic factor – can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
If no intrinsic factor is present, however, then the nutrient is lost when you excrete it from the body.
Another possible cause of a vitamin B12 deficiency can include inflammatory bowel disease.
Inflammatory bowel disease
The NHS explained this term is mainly used to describe ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include:
- Pain, cramps or swelling in the tummy
- Recurring or bloody diarrhoea
- Weight loss
- Extreme tiredness.
Additional symptoms might include a high temperature, vomiting, and anaemia.
Other health conditions tend to be linked to inflammatory bowel disease, such as: