Vitamin B12 is known as cobalamin. It is an essential water-soluble vitamin. The human body needs vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells, DNA, nerves, and carry out other vital functions. Like other vitamins, vitamin B12 cannot be synthesis in the body. Instead, it has to be taken from external sources such as food & supplements. Vitamin B12 is naturally found in milk, cheese, yogurt, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, fruits or fruit juices.
The deficiency of vitamin B12 is very common. It is especially seen in elderly people. People who do not get sufficient vitamin B12 are at a higher risk of its deficiency.
Individuals with a lack of vitamin B12 may have pale or yellowish skin. This happens when vitamin B12 deficiency causes problems with the production of red blood cells. The red blood cells circulate beneath the skin to provide it with the natural colour. With an inadequate amount of RBCs, the skin may look pale.
Vitamin B12 deficiency also causes less production of red blood cells, which further causes megaloblastic anemia. This type of anemia weakens the red blood cells, which the body breaks down more rapidly. When the liver breaks down RBCs, it releases bilirubin. Bilirubin is a brownish compound that gives the skin a yellowish color.
Weakness and fatigue are the most common symptoms of any disease and the same applies for vitamin B12 deficiency. Weakness and fatigue occur because of the ability of the body to produce less red blood cells. There will be lack of oxygen transport in the blood and therefore a person may feel extremely tired and weak.
A fast heart rate can be a symptom of a lack of vitamin B12 in the body. The heart may start beating faster to make up for the reduced RBCs in the blood. Anemia pressurizes the heart to push a higher volume of blood around the body and to do it at a faster rate.
One of the most severe side effects of long term vitamin B12 deficiency is sensation of pins and needles in the hands and feet. This happens because vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the nervous system and its absence can cause nerve damage or nerve conduction in people. People with a lack of vitamin B12 deficiency may not be able to produce enough myelin to coat the nerves. Without the covering, the nerves may get damaged. Being peripheral nerves, the nerves in the hands and feet are at higher risk of being damaged.
If the deficiency is left untreated, the damage caused in the nerves might cause problems in walking and moving. It may affect balance and coordination, making people prone to fall. This symptom is often common in the elderly age group.
If an individual becomes anemic due to a lack of vitamin B12, they may feel shortness of breath or dizziness. This happens because the body does not get enough oxygen as it lacks red blood cells.
The deficiency of vitamin B12 also affects oral health. Being deficient to this vitamin may cause oral problems such as:
Another symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is disturbed or blurred vision. This might happen due to the optic nerve damage if the deficiency is left untreated. The loss can disrupt the nerve signals that travel from the eyes to the brain, causing a problem in the vision.
Being deficient in this vitamin can affect an individual’s mood, causing irritability or sometimes depression. The connecting link between vitamin B12 and mental is that vitamin B-12 helps break down a brain chemical known as homocysteine. An increased level of homocysteine in the brain may cause mental health problems.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency can also harm the digestive tract. A lack of RBCs means that the guts are not getting enough oxygen. Insufficient oxygen in the stomach may lead to a person being sick. It may also cause diarrhea.
As a result of digestive problems, such as nausea, individuals with lack of vitamin B-12 deficiency may lose appetite. A decreased appetite can lead to weight loss in the long term.
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