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You should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia, as these conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test. If your deficiency is due to a restrictive diet, you may seek the advice of a nutritionist. Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is more common in people whose families come from northern Europe, according to The Johns Hopkins University.
The NHS says general symptoms of anaemia may include extreme tiredness, breathlessness, feeling faint and headaches.
You may also notice that you have pale skin, noticeable heartbeats, are hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than from an outside source, as well as noticing a loss of appetite and weight loss.
If you have anaemia caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, you may have other symptoms that affect your behaviour.
The NHS says you may notice irritability, depression, changes in the way you think, feel and behave, and a decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement.
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Some of these symptoms can also happen in people who have a vitamin B12 deficiency but have not developed anaemia.
If you have anaemia caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, you may have other symptoms, such as a pale yellow tinge to your skin, a sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, pins and needles, changes in the way that you walk and move around, and disturbed vision.
There are several risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia including a family history of the disease, autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease.
They also include HIV, some medicines, strict vegetarian diets, and being an older adult, according to The Johns Hopkins University.
The NHS warns that it is important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, as though many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.
“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage,” the health body explains.
All types of anaemia, regardless of the cause, can lead to heart and lung complications as the heart struggles to pump oxygen to the vital organs.
A lack of vitamin B12 can cause neurological problems, which affect your nervous system.
Unfortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency can sometimes lead to infertility, though this usually improves with appropriate vitamin B12 treatment.
As with a vitamin B12 deficiency, a lack of folate can also affect an unborn baby’s growth and development in the womb.
Some people will also develop stomach cancer.
“If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency caused by pernicious anaemia, a condition where your immune system attacks healthy cells in your stomach,” explains the NHS.
Adults, aged 19 to 64, need about 1.5 micrograms a day of vitamin B12.
If you eat meat, fish or dairy foods, you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet, and are unlikely to need to take supplements.
“However, older adults, vegetarians, vegans and people who have conditions that affect their ability to absorb vitamin B-12 from foods might benefit from the use of oral supplements”, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Vitamin B-12 injections or nasal spray might be prescribed to treat vitamin B-12 deficiency.
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