Vitamin B12 is an essential and vital water-soluble vitamin that your body needs. It’s necessary for the proper function of your nervous system, and it’s also required for the production of red blood cells.
Despite being found in a wide variety of foods and easily purchased as a supplement, a large proportion of the population is B12 deficient. It’s important to know how to identify a B12 deficiency so that you can correct the problem and restore your health.
The Importance of Diagnosing a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by not getting enough of the vitamin from your diet, or it could be that your body is not absorbing it properly. There are some people more at risk for B12 deficiency, such as the elderly, those taking diabetes medications, those who have had bowel surgeries, strict vegans, and those regularly taking antacid medications.
The symptoms can take years to show, which is why it’s so important to be on the lookout if you’re at risk. It’s also important to rule out other types of vitamin deficiencies.
Diagnosing a vitamin B12 deficiency can also be a challenge because it can be mistaken for a folate deficiency. When you have low levels of B12, your levels of folate will also drop. If you have a true B12 deficiency, then correcting the folate levels will not improve symptoms, and it will only serve to mask the real underlying problem of your vitamin B12 deficiency.
You also need to identify if there is a more serious underlying cause of the deficiency so that it can be treated.
What To Look For With a B12 Deficiency
Because vitamin B12 is an essential component to your health, it’s important to make sure you identify a deficiency right away. There are some key signs you can look out for to help you identify this.
Should you notice any of these, be sure to have your doctor check for a B12 deficiency, so you can begin taking high-quality supplements or make diet changes right away.
1. Pale Skin or Jaundice
Individuals with a vitamin B2 deficiency often have pale skin and yellow coloring to the whites of their eyes (jaundice). This is the result of a lack of red blood cells, as B12 is required for their production.
A lack of red blood cells causes a type of anemia known as megaloblastic anemia, which is when any blood cells produced are too large and fragile, and they can’t pass into your blood for circulation. Bilirubin is released to break down these fragile cells, and your skin turns yellow as a result of too much bilirubin.
2. Fatigue and Weakness
Without the right amount of red blood cells to circulate oxygen through your body, you end up fatigued. This form of anemia, which is known as pernicious anemia, is common in the elderly and is considered an autoimmune condition.
These individuals are unable to produce enough of a protein known as an intrinsic factor. This protein binds to vitamin B12 so it can be absorbed.
3. Tingling Sensations
Tingling, or the sensation known as pins and needles, is another common symptom of B12 deficiency. B12 is an important contributing factor for the production of myelin in your nervous system, and without this, you become vulnerable to nerve damage.
Myelin surrounds your nerve cells and protects them, but it’s is made differently without B12, and cannot perform its job as well.
4. Changes in Your Mobility
If the B12 deficiency is left untreated, the nerve damage can get worse, which will cause problems with the way you move. It can also affect your coordination and balance, which increases your risk for falls.
While this is more common in elderly individuals, it can be seen in younger people with a severely untreated case of B12 deficiency.
5. Oral Problems
Mouth ulcers and a condition known as glossitis are common with B12 deficiency. Glossitis is what happens when your tongue becomes inflamed, it changes the shape and color of your tongue, and it also causes pain.
The taste buds on your tongue become stretched, and this affects the way you eat and speak. Tingling or burning sensations in the mouth are also common with B12 deficiencies.
If you develop anemia as a result of vitamin B12 deficiency, then you can also experience breathlessness and dizziness. Without red blood cells to deliver oxygen, this becomes a common symptom.
These symptoms can be caused by a host of other issues, so it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor to uncover the true cause.
7. Disrupted Vision
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause blurred or distorted vision. This occurs as a result of the poor myelin protection around the optic nerve cells.
The nerve signal that travels between your eye and your brain becomes disrupted, thus interfering with your vision. This optic neuropathy can be very alarming, but it can be easily reversed once B2 levels are restored.
8. Mood Changes
Low levels of vitamin B12 have been linked to depression and dementia. Low levels of B12 causes high levels of homocysteine, which can damage brain tissue and interfere with brain signals causing mood changes.
Restoring B12 levels with a high-quality supplement may reverse the symptoms, and may help restore your mood. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor if the additional B12 doesn’t end up resolving the issue.
9. Temperature Changes
Occasionally, although it’s rare, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a high temperature. Doctors are not sure why this happens, but supplementing with B12 has been shown to regulate temperature and reduce fevers.
If you experience a fever without any signs of an illness or infection, you may want to consider getting your B12 levels checked.
Vitamin B12 can easily be obtained through your diet, specifically animal proteins. Poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy are the top choices, and some other foods are fortified with B12 too.
If the cause of your deficiency is not diet related, then a natural, high-quality vitamin B12 supplement can help you keep levels optimal. B12 is a valuable vitamin for your health and longevity, so don’t leave home without it.