Vitamin B12 deficiency can develop when a person doesn’t get enough of the vitamin from the foods they eat. B12 is vital for the production of red blood cells and healthy nerves – a lack of the vitamin can result in a lack of red blood cells and damaged nerves. People that eat a vegan or vegetarian diet may be at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency because the vitamin is mainly found in foods of an animal origin. Certain medical conditions can also affect people’s absorption of B12 from foods, including pernicious anaemia.
To avoid long-term complications it’s important to recognise the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
If vitamin B12 deficiency is left untreated, neurological problems can occur such as vision problems, memory loss and loss of physical co-ordination.
A person may also be at increased risk of infertility and stomach cancer.
To avoid these long-term complications it’s important to recognise the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
One to watch out for is shortness of breath, according to Thyroid Patient Advocacy.
Advising on peculiar symptoms of even borderline vitamin B12 deficiency, it says shortness of breath can occur, but without chest pain.
It says: “This can occur when walking just a few yards.”
While pain may not appear in the chest, a person deficient in vitamin B12 may experience facial pain, usually on one side of the face at a time.
It details: “This pain varies so much that it would be difficult to describe all the possibilities. It can be a dull pain in the cheek bone right underneath an eye.
“It can also be a sharp shooting pain across the forehead, sometimes coming downward from the scalp to the edge of the nose by the eye.
“This pain can be excruciating but is usually fleeting.”
Other vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms
Bupa lists five other symptoms of the condition to look out for:
- Feeling very tired
- Breathlessness even after little exercise
- Heart palpitations
- A reduced appetite
Treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency
If a person is not getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet they may be advised by a GP to eat more foods fortified with vitamin B12 or to take regular supplements.
Vitamin B12 injections may also be recommended, and for those with pernicious anaemia, injections may be required for the rest of their lives.
Experts say adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms (mg) a day of vitamin B12, and unless you have pernicious anaemia, you should be able to get this through your diet.
If vitamin B12 deficiency is triggered by not including enough B12 in the diet, Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, offers the “A list of B12 foods” on its website.
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