Vitamin B12 Deficiency Signs and Symptoms: What You Should Know
Despite the fact that the vitamin may be found in a variety of meals, B12 insufficiency and deficiency are rather prevalent conditions.
There are several reasons for this, including poor nutritional intake, malabsorption, certain medical disorders, and the use of B12-depleting drugs .
It is estimated that up to 20% of persons over the age of 60 in the United States and Great Britain are vitamin D deficient, according to research conducted in these countries .
As a point of reference, B12 levels more than 300 pg/mL are regarded normal, levels between 200 and 300 pg/mL are considered borderline, and levels less than 200 pg/mL are considered inadequate.
Older persons are more likely than younger ones to be B12 deficient because the capacity to absorb B12 from diet diminishes with age.
However, this does not rule out the possibility of developing B12 deficiency in children and young adults, including those who are pregnant or nursing .
Unfortunately, vitamin B12 insufficiency is often neglected and misdiagnosed in the general population.
This is often owing to insufficient laboratory testing or to the fact that the symptoms are not exclusive to vitamin B12 insufficiency .
If you believe you may be suffering from a B12 deficiency, it’s critical that you consult with a healthcare practitioner to discuss your symptoms and undertake the necessary tests.
It is discussed in this article how B12 insufficiency is identified and treated, as well nine of the most typically reported symptoms associated with B12 deficiency.
Stocksy photographer Michela Ravasio
If you have a B12 deficiency or deficiency, you will likely experience exhaustion.
The cells in your body need B12 in order to operate correctly.
Being B12 deficient may thus result in a reduction in normal red blood cell synthesis, which can affect oxygen transport to the body .
Megaloblastic anemia may be caused by a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, to name a few of examples.
This disorder results in the development of big, aberrant, and immature red blood cells, as well as a reduction in the ability to synthesize DNA .
Your body will most likely feel weak and exhausted if it does not have enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to the various organs and tissues.
It’s vital to understand that you might experience tiredness and other symptoms of B12 deficiency even if your B12 levels are determined to be within normal range or simply borderline low, according to your doctor .
2. Skin that is pale or yellow in color
Another indicator of B12 insufficiency is pale or yellow skin, which might suggest anemia.
When you have anemia associated to B12 deficiency, your skin may seem pale owing to a lack of fully-matured, healthy red blood cells in your body.
This is similar to the disease known as iron deficiency anemia, which causes your skin to appear pale .
In addition, a B12 shortage may result in a disease known as jaundice, which causes your skin and the whites of your eyes to become yellowish in appearance.
Because of excessive amounts of bilirubin, a waste product produced when your body breaks down red blood cells, the color is caused by the color .
3. Muscle aches and pains
It is possible to develop neurological adverse effects from B12 insufficiency or deficiency, which include headaches.
In fact, headaches are among the most often reported symptoms of B12 insufficiency in both adults and children, and they are more severe in children .
According to some research, those who suffer from specific kinds of headaches on a regular basis are more likely to have low B12 levels than the general population.
A research conducted in 2019 with 140 individuals, half of whom had migraines, discovered that blood levels of vitamin B12 were considerably lower in those who had migraines compared to those who had no migraine history, according to the findings .
When compared to those with the lowest B12 levels, those with the highest B12 levels were 80 percent less likely to suffer from migraines, according to the findings of the research.
The investigation into whether medication with vitamin B12 may alleviate the symptoms of migraine headaches in certain persons is still ongoing .
4. Mood swings and depressive symptoms
Deficiency in vitamin B12 might have negative consequences for your mental health since it is necessary for the healthy functioning of your central nervous system.
B12 deficiency, in particular, is related with a higher risk of developing depression .
Having low amounts of vitamin B12 may result in high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid containing sulfur that is toxic to the body.
As a result, increased oxidative stress, DNA damage, and cell death may occur in the body, which may contribute to the development of depression.
A research conducted in 2020 with 132 children and teenagers, 89 of whom had depression and 43 who did not, discovered that the participants with depression had lower B12 levels and higher homocysteine levels when compared to the people who did not have depression .
Furthermore, low or inadequate B12 levels may be associated with various psychological illnesses, such as psychosis and mood disorders, in addition to depressed symptoms .
5. Problems with the gastrointestinal tract
Regardless of age, these problems may impact both adults and children.
Although many of these symptoms are non-specific, it is important to remember that they might be caused by other conditions. Food intolerances, drugs, and infections, to name a few causes, may all result in diarrhea.
Concentration problems and mental impairment are among the most common symptoms
Because a B12 deficiency has a detrimental influence on the central nervous system, those who have low or inadequate B12 levels may experience dizziness, headaches, and difficulties focusing and completing activities as a result.
Because the likelihood of B12 insufficiency grows with age, older persons are at more risk for these adverse effects than younger ones.
In fact, several studies have shown a link between low B12 levels and decreased mental performance in older persons .
Fortunately, research has shown that mental impairment caused by low B12 levels may be alleviated with B12 supplementation.
Examples include a 2020 research in which 202 participants with minor mental impairment, low or low-normal B12 levels, and increased homocysteine levels received B12 replacement treatment for three months .
Eighty-four percent of the participants reported substantial improvements in symptoms such as poor concentration, memory deterioration, and forgetfulness after completing the therapy program .
Pain and inflammation in the mouth and on the tongue.
Glossitis is a medical word that refers to an inflamed, red, and painful tongue that is caused by bacteria or viruses.
It is possible that it is caused by a B12 deficiency .
Glossitis may occur in conjunction with stomatitis in patients who have this deficit, which is characterized by ulcers and inflammation in the mouth and throat .
However, even though glossitis and stomatitis are prevalent in patients with B12 deficiency-related anemia, they may occur without anemia and be a symptom of a developing B12 deficiency as early as the first signs of anemia .
In addition to dietary inadequacies, glossitis may be caused by a lack of certain vitamins and minerals, such as folate, riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3) .
8. The sensation of paresthesia in the hands and feet
Generally speaking, paresthesia is a medical word that refers to the feeling of burning or pins-and-needles in various parts of the body, such as the hands and feet.
Many adults and children with B12 deficiency report suffering paresthesia as a result of their condition .
It is unfortunate that this indication of B12 insufficiency coincides with symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, which is nerve damage caused by high blood sugar levels and may cause pain and numbness in the limbs.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes who use metformin are at increased risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency, since this medicine has been shown to decrease vitamin B12 absorption in the body .
As a result, persons with diabetes who have a B12 deficiency may be misdiagnosed as peripheral neuropathy.
Therefore, many specialists suggest that persons using metformin frequently have their vitamin B12 levels checked to ensure they are not deficient.
9. Other indications and symptoms of B12 insufficiency are included in Table
In addition to the symptoms listed above, B12 deficiency may result in the following complications:
Muscular cramps and muscle weakness are common side effects of exercise.
Deficiency in vitamin B12 impairs motor and sensory nerve function, resulting in muscular cramps and weakness, among other symptoms.
The inability to coordinate. Ataxia, often known as poor balance and coordination, is a neurological ailment that may be caused by a lack of vitamin B12.
As a result, a person suffering from B12 deficiency may have difficulties walking and maintaining balance .
Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which the male sexual function is impaired.
Men suffering from B12 deficiency may develop erectile dysfunction as a consequence of elevated homocysteine levels in the bloodstream, according to research.
Persistent visual abnormalities. Vision abnormalities may result from a B12 shortage, which may be caused by injury to the optic nerve
B12 insufficiency is diagnosed and treated in the same way as other nutritional deficiencies.
Because the symptoms of vitamin B12 insufficiency are not particular to the disorder, it is possible that it will go unnoticed or that it will be misdiagnosed.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms indicated above, it’s critical that you speak with a healthcare expert about your concerns.
This is particularly important if you fall into one of the following categories:
adopt a dietary regimen that is stringent, such as a vegan diet
have reached the age of 60
are expecting a child or are nursing a child
have a medical condition that may cause B12 levels to be depleted
medicine such as metformin or proton pump inhibitors that depletes vitamin B12 intake
After learning about your symptoms and doing a physical examination, a healthcare expert can rule out a B12 shortage by ordering blood tests for you to take.
These tests may contain:
B12 levels are normal.
folic acid levels
a complete blood count (CBC) along with a peripheral smear is performed.
MMA (methylmalonic acid) concentrations
You will be advised by your healthcare expert on the most effective therapy if your B12 levels are found to be too low.
In some cases, B12 injections or oral B12 supplements are used, while in others, treating an underlying health problem that may be causing the deficit is used.
B12 injections are often indicated for persons who are unable to effectively absorb B12 through food or supplements, such as those who have had gastric bypass surgery or those who have specific autoimmune illnesses, such as those who have had a kidney transplant (2Trusted Source).
B12 pills and injections are generally believed to be safe and well-tolerated, even when administered in high amounts .
If your healthcare practitioner suspects that you may be deficient in vitamin B12, he or she will perform necessary blood tests to determine your B12 status.
Treatment for B12 insufficiency is generally accomplished by the use of oral supplements or injections.
The bottom line is as follows:
Deficiency in vitamin B12 may manifest itself in a number of ways, including weariness, headaches, depression, pale or yellow complexion, mental impairment, discomfort and inflammation in the mouth and tongue.
As a result, many of the symptoms associated with low B12 levels are not unique to B12 deficiency, and the illness may go unnoticed for a long period of time.
If you are suffering any of the symptoms indicated above, it is critical that you see a healthcare expert so that you can be tested and get the proper treatment.