15 Apr

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes and Symptoms

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin in the diet typically provided by animal-based proteins like meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy products. We need adequate vitamin B12 in the body to produce red blood cells, nerves, and DNA. It can also prevent megaloblastic anemia.

Because vitamin B12 is derived in our diets from animal-based sources, vegetarians, especially vegans, are at higher risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. People who have had weight-loss surgery are also at a higher risk because the surgery affects the way nutrients are absorbed by the body, reducing the absorption of vitamin B12. Patients with Celiac or Crohn’s disease, which both affect nutrient absorption, are also at high risk of deficiency. Finally, people who take medication for heartburn are at higher risk because the heartburn medication reduces acid in the stomach, which is needed for vitamin B12 absorption.

If you are deficient in vitamin B12, you likely won’t see a sudden, drastic change in your health. Vitamin B12 deficiency causes slow, progressive changes that worsen over time. Some things to look out for include:

  • numbness or tingling in the extremities (“pins and needles”)
  • staggering gait
  • balance problems
  • anemia
  • swollen, inflamed tongue
  • cognitive difficulties
  • memory loss
  • physical weakness
  • physical and mental fatigue

Again, these symptoms will typically start slowly and progressively get worse. Since these symptoms overlap with so many other medical conditions, a blood test is needed to definitively confirm vitamin B12 deficiency as the issue.

Once vitamin B12 deficiency has been diagnosed, there are several treatment paths to consider, such as dietary changes, oral supplementation, or injections. The best treatment for you will depend on your medical history and the severity of your deficiency. Call us today at (727) 525-0900 to schedule a thorough exam and lab work to determine if your symptoms are related to vitamin B12 deficiency and get on the route to recovery and optimal health!