Vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, with everyday symptoms that are easy to mistake for other conditions. The vitamin is essential for our health, since we need it to produce red blood cells, DNA, and hormones, amongst other things. It also helps us to maintain an effective nervous system too.
Common Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The typical American diet supplies adequate amounts of vitamin B12, yet deficiency remains a common problem. This is because consuming and absorbing vitamin B12 are entirely different things. Just because we’ve eaten a high amount of a nutrient, doesn’t necessarily mean our body will be able to absorb it. Age, medical conditions, drugs, and dietary patterns can all affect how much B12 our body can utilize.
- Age – as we get older, our body becomes less able to absorb B12 from food, so the likelihood of vitamin B12 deficiency rises.
- Medical Conditions – celiac disease or gastric bypass surgery can also reduce the amount of vitamin B12 absorbed by our digestive system.
- Drugs – Some drugs like as Metformin (used to treat type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome), antibiotics, and common heartburn medicines can also cause the deficiency.
- Dietary Patterns – Meat and eggs are good sources, so lack of B12 is also common in vegans and vegetarians.
If you’re at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency then here are 8 signs to look out for.
1. Low Energy or Fatigue
Extreme fatigue or lack of energy is usually one of the first symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because the body uses B12 to produce red blood cells which transport oxygen around. Without it, your cells get less oxygen, which results in you feeling tired, weak, and sluggish.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with fatigue since the 1970s and continues to be linked today. Recent studies have also suggested that people with chronic fatigue syndrome may benefit from taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
However, it’s important to remember that fatigue can signal many things, from serious medical conditions to overwork. So, fatigue alone isn’t enough to diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency.
2. Your Muscles Feel Like Mush
If your muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen from red blood cells, then quite simply, they’ll feel like mush. Lifting, pulling, or pushing things may seem harder than usual. You might find that your legs suddenly feel drained after a long walk, even though you’re not out of breath. Some people put their muscular weakness down to the strains of their job, only to find that it’s the result of a low vitamin B12 level.
3. Pins and Needles
Pins and needles are usually down to a lack of blood supply caused by something like sitting at an awkward angle. However, it can also be an underlying symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Pins and needles are most frequently experienced in the hands and feet, with sensations of tingling, pricking, or burning. It can affect limb movement (especially in your legs) and cause numbness. In people with a pronounced deficiency, this may be a result of nerve damage caused by low oxygen levels.
4. You Forget Things
We all forget things at times. Remembering where we put our car keys is a constant mystery. Forgetting people’s names is a common struggle. But if you’re forgetting things on a consistent basis, then B12 deficiency may be to blame.
In fact, the symptoms of B12 deficiency are often mistaken for the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, a simple blood test will determine whether your B12 levels are low. The doctor will usually recommend vitamin supplementation to quickly reverse your deficiency.
5. Pale, Yellowy Skin
Having pale skin is common if you don’t live somewhere particularly sunny. But if your fair complexion now has a slightly yellow color, then it may be due to a lack of vitamin B12.
With prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency, the red blood cells in the body become fragile and broken. As the number of red blood cells decreases, pernicious anemia can develop. This also causes a pigment to be released that can turn the complexion yellow.
6. Tongue Turns Smooth and Red
The lingual papillae on the tongue are tiny structures that create its rough texture. People who are deficient in vitamin B12 may lose these structures, so the tongue becomes smooth and red.
These lingual papillae contain your taste buds, so losing a large number may result in a reduced ability to taste things or loss of appetite. It may also cause a burning sensation on the back of the tongue.
7. Feeling Dizzy
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a number of neurological symptoms, including dizziness. This is caused by a decrease in oxygen being supplied to your brain, which results in feelings of being woozy, light-headed, or unbalanced.
In serious cases, it may affect the sensory organs, specifically the eyes and ears, which can lead to fainting. It might also manifest itself as a feeling of motion sickness or as if you are leaning to one side.
8. Blurry Vision
In extreme cases, vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the optic nerve. This is because it plays a key role in the health of nerves, along with the nervous system as a whole. Optic nerve damage may lead to blurry vision, double vision, or sensitivity to light. In serious instances, it can even cause vision loss.
If you experience any issues with your health or sight, it’s important to seek the advice of a trained health professional. They can determine what the cause may be, along with the best course of treatment. However, eating a balanced diet and supplementing with essential vitamins will help ensure your body functions at its very best. Our topical vitamin patches are easily absorbed via the skin instead of the digestive system. So, to ensure your vitamin B12 levels are at their optimal, try our B12 Energy Plus Patch.
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1. Julie M. Sease (2009), Does Vitamin B12 help relieve fatigue? Medscape. Accessed on 12th October 2017. Available at http://www. medscape.com/viewarticle/585589
2. Regland B, Forsmark S, Halaouate L, Matousek M, Peilot B, and Zachrisson O, Gottfries CG (2015), Response to vitamin B12 and folic acid in myalgic encephalomyelitis and fibromyalgia. Pubmed, US Library of National Medicine, National Institute of Health Accessed on 12th October 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25902009