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 various vital functions, including the formation of red blood cells, the maintenance of the nervous system, and cellular metabolism.
Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The primary cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is inadequate intake of this vitamin in the diet. Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Therefore, individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets are at 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 portions of the stomach, leading to poor absorption of the vitamin.
- Medications: Some classes of medications (proton pump 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, leading to deficiency.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
Symptoms Caused by B12 Deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can range from fatigue and weakness to severe neurological problems such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Untreated 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 limbs, eye tremors, tremors, and palpitations, oral ulcers, memory loss, and loss of appetite.
Treatment of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
It is important to diagnose and treat vitamin B12 deficiency early to prevent long-term complications. Treatment typically involves the administration of vitamin B12 supplements orally or by injection, depending on the severity of the deficiency.
Therefore, if you suspect this deficiency due to symptoms, it is recommended to consult a specialist doctor to assess your health. In the case of children, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is especially important because low levels of vitamin B12 can cause irreversible damage.
Key treatments include intramuscular injections of vitamin B12 (concentration of 100 mcg) in the form of hydroxocobalamin (especially in cases of pernicious anemia), supplements and multivitamins, and dietary changes to include foods rich in vitamin B12 such as milk, beef liver, eggs, cheese, seafood, yogurt, chicken, fish, and yeast.
How to Determine If Your Vitamin B12 Level Is Low
In addition to consulting a doctor to assess your health, some tests will be conducted to reach a diagnosis. Recommended tests include a complete blood count that analyzes the quantity of red blood cells and hemoglobin, as well as their shape, size, and coloration.
It is also important to analyze folate and vitamin B12 levels (also known as cyanocobalamin) through biochemical tests. The normal range for vitamin B12 levels is considered to be 200 to 800 pg/ml.
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