Vitamin B12: Signs You Might Have a Deficiency and What to Do About It

Have you been getting tired very quickly these days? Struggling to remember things? Getting out of breath easily?

If yes, then you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential vitamin required by your body to function properly. Vitamin B12 is involved in the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells, and it contributes to the functioning of the nervous system and cell metabolism.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg for adults and 2.8 mcg for breastfeeding women. If there is a deficiency of vitamin B12 in the body, you can experience various distressing symptoms.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  • Breathlessness
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of balance
  • Memory problems
  • Mouth soreness and ulcers
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Generalized weakness
  • Blurry vision

If left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia and other dangerous complications including:

  • Cardiac diseases
  • Neurological disturbances e.g. dementia
  • Coordination problems such as ataxia
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Loss of vision
  • Infertility

Who Can Develop Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency doesn’t occur in everyone. Certain segments of the population are more vulnerable than others. Risk groups for vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Geriatric patients
  • Patients who have had bariatric surgery
  • People with diabetes
  • People with stomach conditions such as atrophic gastritis
  • Vegans

Sources of Vitamin B12 

Naturally Occurring

Foods rich in vitamin B12 include fish (e.g. salmon), seafood (particularly clams), red meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and dairy products. This is why vegetarians and vegans are at risk of developing a deficiency. Breakfast cereals and some plant-based milk are also often fortified with B12.

Supplements

Oral dietary supplements can contain vitamin B12 in the form of either of cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin. Sublingual tablets and lozenges containing vitamin B12 can also be bought from any pharmacy.

Almost all multivitamins will contain vitamin B12. However, the absorption of vitamin B12 through dietary supplements isn’t always effective. This is because the intrinsic factor, a substance found in the stomach, affects absorption.

Vitamin B12 Shots

The best way to treat vitamin b12 deficiency is through injections.

The injection comes in the form of vials which is administered intramuscularly. A healthcare provider can deliver the shot in an outpatient setting.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin (more commonly used)
  • cyanocobalamin

 

Advantages of Injections in Treatment of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is best treated with injections as they are more readily absorbed.

For people with stomach issues or pernicious anemia, it isn’t always possible to absorb vitamin B12 through food or dietary supplements.

Summary:

Vitamin B12 is required by the body for cell metabolism, proper functioning of the nervous system and synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause symptoms such as breathlessness, tiredness, weakness, visual difficulties, mouth sores, and neurological problems. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be treated by intramuscular vitamin B12 injections.

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