Vitamin B12 is a vital water-soluble vitamin which plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells. Also known as Cobalamin, it aids in the proper functioning of the nervous system too.
As we get older, our body’s capacity to absorb Vitamin B12 from the food we consume starts to diminish. Thus, it is observed that deficiency of B12 is more prevalent amongst the elderly as compared to the young.
However, this may not be the only reason why your body may not be able to absorb this essential vitamin.
Besides the elderly, below are some categories of people who primarily suffer from this deficiency:
- People who adhere to a strict vegan diet
- Patients taking antacid drugs for heartburn for a long duration
- People who have undergone a weight loss surgery
Unfortunately, it takes years for the symptoms of this deficiency to show up and diagnosing the same could be cumbersome too. Thus, here is a rundown of symptoms that you should definitely keep a tab on.
- Oral Symptoms such as Mouth Ulcers and Glossitis
Many Vitamin B12 deficient patients experience mouth ulcers along with a burning and itching sensation in the mouth. Many others also suffer from Glossitis – this is a condition where the tongue changes color and shape and appears red and swollen. It also causes the surface of the tongue to appear smooth as the tiny bumps on the tongue that contain the taste buds stretch out and disappear.
- A prickling sensation in Hands and Feet
One of the most serious long-term side effects of this deficiency is nerve damage. B12 plays a crucial role in the metabolic pathway that produces Myelin. Myelin is a fatty substance that surrounds the nerves thereby offering them protection. Thus without B12, the nervous system is not able to function properly. One very common sign of this improper functioning is Paresthesia, a prickling sensation that one experiences in hands and legs.
- Pale and Jaundiced Skin
Many B12 patients look pale and have a slight yellow tinge in the whites of their eyes and in their skin. This basically happens due to the improper production of the red blood cells and causes an anemic condition called Megaloblastic anemia. In this condition, the red blood cells produced in the bone marrow are large and fragile and are unable to divide. Since they are too large they cannot pass out of the bone marrow and into the bloodstream for circulation. Without an adequate number of red blood cells circulating in the blood, the skin appears pale and yellow.
- Tiredness and Fatigue
With a shortage of red blood cells, adequate oxygen doesn’t get transported throughout the body. This makes a person feel tired and weak. In some extreme cases, many patients also experience shortness of breath and dizziness.
- Mood Swings
Low levels of Vitamin B12 can also be associated with phases of mood swings and bouts of depression in certain patients.