Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency: fatigue, sensory problems

  • Recent studies have examined the link between vitamin B12 deficiency and cognitive impairment in the elderly.
  • Although more research is needed on vitamin B12 and neurological behavior, nutrients are essential for energy production.
  • Vitamin D deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, problems and nerve damage.

Vitamin B12 is an easy vitamin to get through food or supplements, which is a good thing because a deficiency can damage your nerves and cognition for a long time.

Recent studies have found high rates of cognitive decline in older people with vitamin B12 deficiency and an excess of folic acid or vitamin B9. Eduardo Williamor, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

Some studies have suggested that vitamin B12 may help prevent depression and dementia, but Williamer said more research is needed on the effects of vitamin B12 on neurological behavior.

“The role of vitamin B-12 in neurocognitive performance is of great interest, especially in the elderly,” William said. “The role of vitamin B-12 in neuronal development in fetuses, infants and children is also an important area of ​​study.”

Here’s how to tell if you’re deficient in vitamin B12 and why you need essential nutrients:

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency range from mild fatigue to severe neurological complications.

According to William, people who are deficient in vitamin B12 will develop a number of symptoms depending on how long they have been malnourished.

People with mild vitamin B12 deficiency may experience fatigue, he said. Vitamin B12 reacts with compounds in the body and produces DNA and energy, so a deficiency can lead to fatigue.

Mild to moderate vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, or when there are not enough healthy red blood cells in the body to help distribute oxygen. Dr. Aaron Goodman, a hematologist and professor at UC San Diego Health, previously told Insider that anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can cause sores or ulcers around the mouth.

According to William, moderate vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a condition called anemia, called macrocytosis, or the growth of red blood cells. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition usually does not cause symptoms, but can be seen on a regular blood test.

Moderate deficiency can lead to peripheral neuropathy or damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include sensory problems such as itching or drowsiness of the hands and feet, as well as glossitis or inflammation of the tongue, which can lead to sensitivity to bitter or sour food.

Severe deficiency can lead to “serious neurological and psychiatric symptoms,” William said. Neurological symptoms include:

  • irritability
  • impaired cognition
  • depression
  • psychosis
  • dementia

If vitamin B12 deficiency is not treated, some neurological symptoms may become persistent, previously registered nutritionist Elizabeth Bale told Insider.

Severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to more serious anemia and problems with other blood cells, inflammation and weakness of the heart, and even infertility.

Treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency

According to Williamor, people at the highest risk of B12 deficiency are those who consume less animal products, such as eggs and meat, which are the only natural sources of the vitamin. These people may not eat enough animal food “or in many low- and middle-income countries where, for example, animal products can be expensive due to strict vegetarianism or socioeconomic constraints,” Williamor said.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented by taking animal-derived foods, “if your choice and purchasing power allows,” Villamor, or by taking oral supplements and fortified foods. Other treatments include intramuscular injections or IV infusions.

Older people or people who have undergone gastric surgery may have some form of malabsorption that can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. People who take medications to reduce stomach acid and alcohol can also be at risk, Williamor said.

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