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Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Signs, Symptoms, Facts

What is Vitamin B12? What happens if the amount of Vitamin B12 decreases in the body? Learn Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency... 

Vitamin B12 is an important water-soluble vitamin, also called cobalamin. It is one of the groups of 8 B vitamins. Vitamin B12 Deficiency can lead to many complications in the body. Today we will let you know some noticeable signs and symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency.

Role of Vitamin B12

  • Vitamin B12 helps the body convert carbohydrates (food) into glucose for energy production
  • It helps the body in consumption of fats and protein.
  • It is required for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver.
  • Vitamin B12 Plays An important role in the normal functioning of the brain and the nervous system.
  • It is required in the metabolism of every cell in the body.

The human body generates millions of red blood cells (RBC) every minute, but without vitamin B12, cells cannot multiply properly. The production of RBC goes down if an individual’s vitamin B12 levels are too low. As the RBC count drops, anaemia occurs.

How do we know we are vitamin B12 deficient? 

The signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are often not very specific, so it can go unnoticed for a long period of time.

It is also easily mistaken for other disease or conditions and therefore remains misdiagnosed for a long time.

By the time vitamin B12 deficiency gets detected, there might be some irreversible damage done already.

A careful consulting and a blood test are needed. You are considered to be vitamin B12 deficient if your concentration of vitamin B12 is less than 150 pmol/L.

Here are signs and symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Below is the list of some noticeable signs and symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency.


symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- dizziness

Frequent attacks of dizziness and vertigo can indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency. A deficient person may experience a feeling of wobbles when he gets up too fast from a sitting position.

He may also feel dizzy when he walks up or downstairs, it could also be dangerous. Chronic vertigo symptoms should be brought to the doctor’s attention, so a person can be given the required treatment immediately for vitamin deficiency.

Pale or Jaundiced Skin

symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- pale or jaundiced skin

A person with vitamin B12 deficiency often look pale or have a slight yellow tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes, a condition known as jaundice.

This happens when a lack of vitamin B12 causes problems with your body’s RBC (red blood cell) production.

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the production of the DNA required to produce RBCs. Without that, the instructions for building the RBCs are incomplete, and cells are unable to divide.

This causes a type of anaemia known as megaloblastic anemia, in which the RBCs produced in the bone marrow are large and fragile.

These RBCs are too large to pass out of your bone marrow and into your circulation. Therefore, you don’t have as many red blood cells (RBC) circulating around the body and hence your skin can appear pale in colour.

The fragility of such cells also means that many of them break down, causing an excess production of bilirubin.

Large amounts of bilirubin are responsible to give your skin and eyes a yellow tinge.

Weakness and Fatigue

symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- weakness fatigue

Weakness and fatigue are very common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.

They occur because your body doesn’t have enough vitamin B12 to make RBC (red blood cells), which is carrier to transport oxygen throughout your body.

As a result, you are unable to efficiently supply oxygen to your body’s cells, making you feel tired and weak.

Sensations of Pins and Needles

symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- pins & needle sensation

Experiencing pins and needles sensation throughout the body when you haven’t compressed your body can be signs of B12 deficiency.

Numbness or the feeling of electric shock waves can be a result of nerve damage in vitamin B12 deficient patients.

Nerve issues in the body can be traced back to low oxygen levels, due to poor red blood cell (RBC) production, which the B12 vitamin highly affects.


symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- forgetfulness

Chronic and uncharacteristic forgetfulness can indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Many people with this condition assume that they are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, especially in their senior years while all they lack is vitamin B12.

A simple blood test can diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency, and a supplemental regimen can help improve your memory.


symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- breathlessness

Anaemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can cause some individuals to feel breathless and dizzy. This condition occurs when the body is unable to transport enough amount of oxygen to all its cells.

However, these symptoms can have many causes, so if you notice that you are unusually breathless, you need to consult with your doctor to rule out the cause.

Muscle Weakness 

symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- muscle weakness

Lack of vitamin B12 and insufficient oxygenation to the muscles can lead to sluggishness and uncharacteristic muscle weakness.

Suddenly a person who carries big loads will not be able to manage a heavy purse or even a gym bag.

Vision Problem

symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- vision problem

Low vitamin B12 stores over the long period can lead to vision changes and damage the vision. Retinal damage may be results of the blood vessels in the eye are blocked.

As a result, a person may experience light sensitivity, blurred or double vision, tracers or shadows, which all result from damage to the optic nerve. However, supplements can restore the full vision.

Mood Changes

symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- mood swing

Individuals with B12 deficiency often feel changes in mood. In fact, a lack of vitamin B12 have been linked to mood and brain disorders such as depression and dementia

The “homocysteine hypothesis of depression” has been suggested as a potential theory of explanation for this link.

This hypothesis suggests that high levels of homocysteine caused by low levels of vitamin B12 could cause damage to the brain tissue and interfere with signals to and from your brain, resulting in mood changes.

High Temperature

symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency- high temperature fever

A very rare but occasional symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is a high temperature.

It’s not clear why this happens, but few doctors have reported cases of fever that has normalized after treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Some other common symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • A headache
  • Stomach upset
  • Weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Dry mouth
  • Ringing in the ears called tinnitus
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • White nails can be a sign of anemia

Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 available naturally in animal products, Such as:

  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

Foods that are good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Beef, poultry, pork, and lamb Fish, especially haddock, and tuna Milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • Organ meats, especially liver and kidney
  • Some nutritional yeast products
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs – Benefits of Eating eggs for health

Vitamin B12 does not typically occur in plant foods.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the source of Vitamin B12 for vegans and vegetarians?

Vegans do not consume animal products, but they can definitely take vitamin B12 dietary supplements preferable with water, after the meal, to avoid B12 deficiency. This is particularly important for women while pregnancy and breastfeeding

Milk, yoghurt and cheese, along with eggs, are the only vegetarian food sources which naturally contain significant levels of vitamin B12.

Specific types of soya milk and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B12. Some nutritional yeast products also contain vitamin B12.

How long does it take to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency?

As the liver does store extra amount vitamin B12, and the body has a recycling process for B12, it may take an adult about 3 to 10 years to develop a deficiency once intake of the nutrient has ceased.

If a person’s past vitamin B12 intake has been very low, a deficiency may manifest itself in much less than three years after cessation of intake.

Can a person make his own B12 in the body?

Yes. Some specific bacteria in the colon make vitamin B12. However, the absorption of vitamin B12 takes place higher up in the gastrointestinal tract (GI Track), near the end of the small intestine so it is unavailable for use in the body.

Short Summary of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency is common nowadays, especially in women. Vegetarian people must be especially careful to get adequate amounts of vitamin B12 on a regular basis, preferably daily.
  • Diagnosis of this condition is very difficult as symptoms are similar to some other conditions.
  • Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can take up to 3 years to show up and diagnosing

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