Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Megaloblastic anaemia is a condition whereby the bone marrow produces usually large, structurally abnormal, immature red blood cells that aren’t able to transport oxygen effectively around the body. In the beginning, people are likely to be asymptomatic but, as time goes on, symptoms begin to develop. According to the National Organisation of Rare Disorders (NORD) (even though a vitamin B12 deficiency is common), gastrointestinal abnormalities include diarrhoea.
This can be such an easy symptom to dismiss or to attribute to other causes.
Another gastrointestinal abnormality you might experience includes nausea (i.e. feeling sick).
A lack of healthy red blood cells can also make some people lose their appetite.
When symptoms of anaemia are more apparent, you may suffer from fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and dizziness.
It’s also commonplace for a person experiencing megaloblastic anaemia to have a pale skin colouring (known as pallor).
You could also encounter a fast or irregular heartbeat when you’re deficient in vitamin B12.
Not everyone with a vitamin B12 deficiency will experience all of these symptoms.
Specific symptoms will affect different people, which is why it’s useful to be aware of all the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Some might develop a sore, reddened tongue (known as glossitis), while others could lose weight unexpectedly.
Neurological symptoms can even emerge as the deficiency becomes more severe and long-lasting.
An initial warning sign that the condition has progressed is experiencing tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
This could lead to gait and balance issues down the line, vision loss, and mental confusion or memory loss.
As the nerve cells in the brain become more affected, a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to:
- Panic attacks.
It’s clear that an adequate supply of vitamin B12 is required for normal, healthy functioning of the body and mind.
As vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish and eggs, those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are at high risk of these complications.
Furthermore, those who do eat meat or dairy might suffer from malabsorption.
In such cases, the nutrient isn’t effectively absorbed by the body no matter how much vitamin B12 you consume.
This could be remedied by taking vitamin B12 injections which first need to be signed off by your doctor.
Booking a blood test to check your vitamin B12 levels can determine how low your vitamin B12 levels are.
If a deficiency is diagnosed, you might require life-long treatment.
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