Vitamin B12 deficiency, also known as hypovitaminosis B12, is a medical condition that occurs when the body does not have sufficient amounts of this essential vitamin to function properly.
Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in the human body, as it is involved in a number of vital functions, including the formation of red blood cells, the maintenance of the nervous system and cell metabolism.
Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The main cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is the lack of adequate intake of this vitamin in the diet. Vitamin B12 is found mainly in foods of animal origin, such as meat, fish, dairy products and eggs.
Therefore, people who follow vegetarian or vegan diets have a higher risk of developing this deficiency unless they take vitamin B12 supplements or consume fortified foods. Other causes include:
- Bariatric surgery: some types of bariatric surgery can reduce significant parts of the stomach, which can result in poor absorption of the vitamin.
- Medicines: some classes of medicines (proton inhibitors, cholestyramine, H2 antihistamines, metformin, antibiotics, omeprazole, esomeprazole and pantoprazole) can interfere with vitamin absorption.
- Digestive problems: people with Crohn's disease or celiac disease may have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12, which can lead to deficiency.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
Symptoms Caused by B12 Deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can range from fatigue and weakness to serious neurological problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Without treatment, B12 deficiency can lead to serious complications, such as megaloblastic anemia and permanent damage to the nervous system.
Other common symptoms include loss of sensation in the lower extremities, ocular temblors, temblors and palpitations, mouth ulcers, loss of memory and loss of appetite.
Treatment of Hypovitaminosis B12
It is important to diagnose and treat vitamin B12 deficiency early to prevent long-term complications. Treatment usually involves the administration of oral or injectable vitamin B12 supplements, depending on the severity of the deficiency. Therefore, if you suspect this deficiency due to the symptoms, it is recommended that you consult a specialist doctor to assess your state of health. In the case of children, it is especially important to seek medical attention as soon as possible, as low levels of vitamin B12 can cause irreversible damage.
The main treatments include intramuscular injections of vitamin B12 (100 mcg concentration) in the form of hydroxocobalamin (mainly in cases of pernicious anemia), supplements and multivitamins, and changes in the diet to include foods rich in vitamin B12, such as milk, beef liver, eggs, queso, seafood, yogurt, pollo, fish and yeast.
How to Know if Your Vitamin B12 Level is Low
As well as seeing a doctor to assess your state of health, some tests will be carried out to reach a diagnosis. The recommended tests include a complete blood count (CBC), which analyzes the number of red blood cells and hemoglobin, as well as their shape, size and color.
It is also important to analyze folate and vitamin B12 (also known as cyanocobalamin) levels using biochemical tests. The levels considered normal for vitamin B12 are between 200 and 800 pg/ml.
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