Vitamin B12’s impact on the body cannot be overstated – it helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. In fact, its importance is writ large in reported cases of B12 deficiency, which show an extensive array of symptoms. Given the wide spectrum of possible symptoms, the condition can be overlooked or confused with something else.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: Sensation affecting mobility a sign
One distinct symptom associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency, however, is difficulty walking, according to Harvard Health.
It may affect your balance and coordination, making you more prone to falling.
The symptom is usually the result of being deficient in the vitamin for some time and may signal the deficiency has caused damage to your nervous system.
This symptom is often seen in undiagnosed B12 deficiency in the elderly, as people over the age of 60 are more prone to a B12 deficiency, according to research.
However, preventing or treating deficiencies in this group may improve mobility.
Strengthening the association, the symptom has also been observed in young people who have a severe, untreated deficiency.
Other symptoms of a B12 deficiency include:
- A pale yellow tinge to your skin
- A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
- Mouth ulcers
- Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
- Disturbed vision
- Changes in the way you think, feel and behave
- A decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement (dementia)
As the NHS explains, you should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency because these conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.
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It is also important to consult a GP as soon as possible because some long-term complications associated with a B12 deficiency may be irreversible if left untreated wants the health body.
Neurological problems, such as memory loss, for example, may be irreversible if they develop.
How to treat it
The treatment for vitamin B12 depends on what’s causing the condition.
Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins, however.
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If your deficiency is caused by pernicious anaemia, an autoimmune disease that prevents the body from making intrinsic factor (a protein made by the stomach and needed to absorb vitamin B12 in the intestine), there are two types of vitamin B12 injections recommended:
The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK is pernicious anaemia, which is not related to your diet.
If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals.
As the NHS points out, people who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life.
Vitamin B12 can naturally be found in the following foods:
- Salmon and cod
- Milk and other dairy products
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products, there are other foods that contain vitamin B12, however.
According to the NHS, alternative sources include yeast extract, as well as some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products.
“Check the nutrition labels while food shopping to see how much vitamin B12 different foods contain,” advises the health body.
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