About the disease
As the name suggests, vitamin B12 deficiency is characterized by an insufficiency of vitamin B12 in the body. Since its primarily role is to generate DNA and a sufficient amount of red blood cells, vitamin B12 is essential for good health. The human body does not produce vitamin B12, nor is it able to store it for long periods of time. Therefore, it is essential that vitamin B12 be included regularly in a healthy diet.
The amount of vitamin B12 required by the body depends on a person’s age. According to WebMD, the daily required amount of vitamin B12 is approximately 0.4 mcg for babies, whereas older children need 1.8-2.0 mcg. For adults, the daily required amount of vitamin B12 is even higher, at 2.4 mcg. This amount is usually greater for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
The best sources of vitamin B12 are products that contain protein, such as dairy products, meat and fish. Therefore, it is especially important that vegans and vegetarians make a conscious effort to consume this nutrient, if they are to avoid a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 can also be found in fortified breakfast cereals, yeast extract spread and tablet supplements.
People who suffer from gastritis or who have undergone stomach surgery can also develop vitamin B12 deficiency, due to their inability to absorb this vitamin. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also be aware that they need a larger amount of vitamin B12, which is why they are often advised to take vitamin supplements. If vitamin B12 deficiency is not treated in time, it can lead to anemia.
- Easily tired
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea or constipation in some cases
- Muscles feel numb or weak
- Problems with vision
- Memory problems
- During a general examination, the doctor will ask the patient about their general health, including questions regarding their stamina and diet.
- The patient will also be asked whether they experience mood swings or periods of depression.
- The doctor will also ask the patient whether they have noticed any numbness, weakness or tingling in their muscles.
- The doctor will pay attention to the patient’s complexion, too, as skin problems are often connected with vitamin B12 deficiency.
- A blood test can measure the amount of Vitamin B12 that is present in the patient’s blood. It can also check for an insufficiency of red and white blood cells and platelets, which can lead to similar symptoms. Oxygen levels may also be checked.
- Conservative treatment is sufficient to bring the patient’s vitamin B12 levels back.
- Supplements of vitamin B12 and other nutrients may need to be taken on a regular basis.
- If the patient has a medical condition that prevents the absorption of vitamins that are taken orally, vitamin B12 can be administered through injections or nasally.
- Vegetarians and vegans are advised to eat B12-fortified grains.