Vitamin b12 deficiency symptoms may arise if a person isn’t getting enough of the vitamin from the foods they’re eating. Two of the main causes of this is eating a vegan or vegetarian diet or having a certain medical condition. Vegans and vegetarians may be at risk of being vitamin b12 deficient because the bet sources of B12 are from foods of an animal origin. Medical conditions such as pernicious anaemia can affect a person’s absorption of B12 from foods.
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the body’s production of red blood cells and in keeping nerves healthy.
A lack of B12 can lead to less red blood cells being made and can lead to nerve damage.
If the condition is left untreated for a long time, it could put a person at risk of heart problems.
To avoid complications it’s important to recognise all the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, and one to be wary of is a change in breathing.
Experts say shortness of breath, even after a little exercise, can be a sign of the condition.
According to a case report from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a 62-year-old man who lacked vitamin B12 became progressively short of breath.
Breathlessness can arise when the body lacks red blood cells, as it needs these to get enough oxygen to the body’s cells.
Thyroid Patient Advocacy explains shortness of breath can occur without chest pain, and adds it can occur when walking just a few yards.
Another symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency linked to a person’s cardiovascular system is heart palpitations.
Heart palpitations are heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable, according to the NHS.
It explains: “Your heart may feel like it’s pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for just a few seconds or minutes. You may also feel these sensations in your throat or neck.”
While heart palpitations may appear alarming, in most cases they’re harmless.
But if you do experience shortness of breath of heart palpitations it’s important to see your GP.
Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Other symptoms of the condition to watch out for are listed by Bupa:
- Feeling very tired
- A reduced appetite
- A sore mouth and tongue
The health organisation adds: “If you have vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, you may also look pale or jaundiced (have a yellowy tinge to your skin and the whites of your eyes).
“As well as the symptoms of anaemia, vitamin B12-deficiency may cause symptoms related to your nerves. This is called vitamin B12 neuropathy. It may affect your movement and sensation, especially in your legs, cause numbness or pins and needles and decrease your sensitivity to touch, vibration or pain. It can also cause confusion, depression, poor concentration and forgetfulness.
“These symptoms aren’t always due to vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, but if you have them see your GP.”
Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency
If a person isn’t getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet they may be advised by a GP to eat more foods fortified with vitamin B12 or to take regular supplements.
Vitamin B12 injections may also be recommended, and for those with pernicious anaemia, injections may be required for the rest of their lives.
Experts say adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms (mg) a day of vitamin B12, and unless you have pernicious anaemia, you should be able to get this through your diet.
If vitamin B12 deficiency is triggered by not including enough B12 foods in the diet, Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, offers the “A list of B12 foods” on its website.