Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin also known as cobalamin. It plays a vital role in the production of RBC and DNA and the proper function of the nervous system. These cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Without enough RBC, organs, and tissues do not get oxygen. Without oxygen, the body cannot work well. Deficiency can lead to many hematologic and neuropsychiatric disorders that can often be reversed by early diagnosis and prompt treatment as suggested by health experts.
This deficiency is associated with hematologic, neurologic, and psychiatric manifestations. Hematologic includes Megaloblastic anaemia, Pancytopenia; Neurologic includes Paresthesias, Peripheral neuropathy, Combined systems disease, Psychiatric has Irritability, personality change, Mild memory impairment, dementia, Depression, Psychosis, and Cardiovascular includes Possible increased risk of myocardial infarction and stroke.
It is found naturally in animals foods, including meats, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy. It can also be found in products fortified with B12, such as plant-based milk and some variety of bread. The daily requirement of vitamin B12 up to 6 months of age is 0.4 mcg, 7-12 months is 0.5 mcg, 1-3 years is 0.9 mcg, 4-8 years is 1.2 mcg, 9-13 years is 1.8 mcg, 14-18 years is 2.4 mcg, and adults is 2.4 mcg. In the elderly B12 deficiency is common. According to health experts, people are at risk of deficiency if they cannot get enough from the diet or absorb the food they eat.
According to health experts, the people who are at risk of vitamin B12 are the elderly, those who’ve had surgery that removes the part of the bowel that absorbs B12, for heartburn those who are taking antacid on a long-term basis, people following a strict vegan diet, people on the drug metformin for diabetes. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can take years to show up, and diagonalizing it can be not easy. Folate level drops due to lower levels of vitamin B12.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 –
People with vitamin B12 deficiency have a slight yellow tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes and often look pale. This happens because of a lack of B12 causes problems with body RBC production. It plays a crucial role in the production of DNA which is needed to produce RBC. Instruction of building the cells is incomplete without this. This causes megaloblastic anaemia, in which RBC produced in the bone marrow is large and fragile. These RBCs are too large to pass from the bone marrow and into circulation. So there is not much RBC circulating in the body, and the skin appears pale in colour.
Excess bilirubin is produced when many of these cells break down due to fragility. It is a slightly red or brown-coloured substance produced by the liver when old blood cells are broken. Skin and eyes get a yellow tinge due to large amounts of bilirubin.
As per health experts and doctors, weakness and fatigue are common symptoms of this deficiency. This happens because the body doesn’t have enough vitamin B12 to make RBC which carries oxygen to the blood. For preventing vitamin B12 deficiency, an intrinsic factor is essential. Intrinsic factor deficiency is caused when the immune system mistakenly attacks the stomach cells that produce this substance. Secreted by the stomach it is a protein that joins B12 in the stomach and to absorb in the blood moves through the small intestine. Without this, B12 cannot be absorbed and leaves the body as waste. Health experts say people who have diabetes or thyroid have a high chance of developing this condition.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur if the small intestine cannot absorb B12 other than intrinsic factor-like surgery in the stomach or small intestine, abnormal bacterial growth in the small intestine. This intestinal disease interferes with the absorption of the vitamin.
Nerve damage is caused by long-term B12 deficiency because it makes the metabolic pathway that produces myelin. Myelin surrounds nerves as a form of insulation and protection. Lack of B12 myelin is built differently, and the nervous system doesn’t function properly. The common symptom for this is paresthesia, or the sensation of pins and needles. This is is similar to the pickling sensation in feet and hands. This usually occurs alongside anaemia.
If vitamin B12 deficiency is not treated, then damage to the nervous system can cause changes to the way a person moves and walk. It affects balance and coordination, making a person fall more often. People more than 60 years of age are more prone to vitamin B12 deficiency. Preventing and treating this deficiency can improve mobility in people above 60. Research has shown that a swollen and inflamed tongue with long straight lesions could be an early sign of vitamin B12 deficiency. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 lack lead to mouth ulcers, burning and itching sensation in the mouth, feelings of pins and needles in the tongue.
If a person becomes anaemic because of vitamin B12 deficiency, they might feel short of breath and a bit dizzy, especially when physical activity is done. A person can also have disturbed or blurred vision due to vitamin B12 deficiency. This happens because the lack leads to nervous system damage to the optic nerve that leads to the eyes. The damage can disrupt the nervous signal that travels from eye to brain, impairing vision.
People with vitamin B12 deficiency often report mood changes. Lower levels of B12 are related to mood and brain disorders like dementia and depression. A low level of vitamin B12 causes high levels of homocysteine which causes damage to the brain tissue and interface with signal sending of the brain, and all these lead to mood changes.
Diagnosis and treatment –
The diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency has traditionally been based on low serum vitamin B12 levels, usually less than 200 pg per mL, along with clinical evidence of disease. Treatment includes B-12 injections or folic acid pills. As per doctors and health experts, depending on the cause of the vitamin B12 deficiency, a person may need to take supplements for the rest of their life. These can be pills or injections and will help to lead an everyday life with symptoms. If a person has trouble absorbing vitamin B12, then they would require injection first. If the deficiency is due to a restrictive diet, then taking advice from a nutritionist will help.
Lack of vitamin B12 deficiency means not enough RBC in the body. Without enough RBC, tissues and organs lack oxygen supply. The body cannot function well due to a lack of oxygen. Symptoms might include pale skin, weakness, and fatigue, the sensation of pins and needles, changes in mobility, breathlessness, disturbed vision, mood changes, etc. Vitamin B12 deficiency is easy to prevent by getting enough of it from the diet a person eats.
A person should eat enough meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. If a person doesn’t take animal products then can take supplement related to B12. But without the consultation of a doctor, the supplement should not be taken. A doctor can guide in a proper way how much supplement should be taken. Early diagnosis and treatment can also help in reducing the deficit.