The human body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA and to carry out other functions in the body. Some people do not consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others can’t absorb enough of the vitamin, no matter how much they take in. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people.
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Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can develop slowly, causing symptoms to appear gradually and intensify over time.
It could also come on relatively quickly. Given the array of symptoms a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause, the condition can be overlooked or confused with something else.
Experts say shortness of breath, even after a little exercise, can be a sign of the condition.
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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.
Other symptoms of a B12 deficiency
If a person has a vitamin B12 deficiency, they could become anaemic.
A mild deficiency may cause no symptoms, however, if left untreated, it amy lead to symptoms such as weakness, tiredness or lightheadedness, heart palpitations, pale skin, a smooth tongue, constipation, nerve problems, vision loss or mental problems like depression or memory loss.
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How to treat a deficiency?
If a person has pernicious anaemia or has trouble absorbing vitamin B12 they will need shots of the vitamin first.
They may need to keep getting these shots, take high doses of a supplement by mouth, or may need to get injections.
Increasing foods such as eggs, milk, poultry and fish will also help with a B12 deficiency. Sometimes a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed too.
How much vitamin B12 is needed?
The answer depends on factors such as age, eating habits and medical conditions, and what medications one may be taking.
The average amounts, measured in micrograms vary by age. Adults require at least 2.4 msg per day of vitamin B12.
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.
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