Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia happens when your body is lacking vitamin B12.
Why you need Vitamin B12?
Red Blood Cells (RBCs) need vitamin b12 to fully develop and get mature.
What can cause Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. That’s why your body can’t store them for later use. It is rich in foods like meat, poultry, eggs, fortified cereals, and dairy products. So if you are strictly vegetarian and don’t eat these things then you are at risk of developing this type of anaemia.
Your body needs a special protein, called intrinsic factor, which is released by cells in the stomach. The intrinsic factor will help your body in the absorption of vitamin B12. If intrinsic factor is not released by stomach then vitamin B12 will not be absorbed, leading to anaemia. Intrinsic Factor deficiency is seen in an autoimmune condition known as Pernicious Anaemia. In this condition, the intrinsic factor producing cells are destroyed.
Not only dietary lack but some other factors and conditions also make it difficult for your body to absorb enough vitamin B12.
One of the important reasons for the lack of vitamin b12 in the body is chronic alcohol use. Certain medical conditions of the gut can make it difficult for your body to absorb vitamins. These include Crohn disease, celiac disease, certain infection with parasites (tapeworm). Some weight-loss surgeries like bariatric surgery also result in Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia. Chronic use of antacids is another reason.
What are the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia?
You can have episodes of diarrhoea or constipation. You may feel tired, weak, lightheaded. Your appetite will be affected, skin will become pale. You may feel irritable. Breathing problems especially during exercise can also occur. Your gums may bleed, the tongue may get red and swollen.
In long-standing cases without treatment, nerve damage occurs which can result in dementia, concentration problems, Psychosis, balance issues, numbness and tingling sensation in hands and feet. Hallucinations can happen in extreme conditions.
What Tests can be done to detect Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia?
Your doctor will advise some tests which include complete blood count (CBC), Reticulocyte count, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) level, Vitamin B12 level, serum homocysteine level, Methylmalonic acid (MMA).
Your doctor will do a physical examination to check if you have issues with balance.
If still cause can’t be identified, other procedures may be asked by your doctor to check the health of your gut and bone marrow.
How to treat Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia?
Treatment depends on the cause.
The treatment goal is to increase your vitamin B12 level. Either you will be given oral supplements or through shots, if you have a severe deficiency. If you do not start treatment early then the chances of nerve damage will increase.
How to prevent Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia?
You can prevent anaemia caused by eating a well-balanced diet. If you’ve had a gut surgery known to cause vitamin B12 deficiency, then you may need vitamin B12 shots on regular basis.