Untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to mental illness, physical impairments, cognitive problems, increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and in certain situations- even death. Many wonder- if that’s the case, then why isn’t vitamin B12 deficiency, aka pernicious anemia, detected early-on, before B12 levels plummet to such an unhealthy, debilitating level?
B12 deficiency is hard to find
Vitamin B12 deficiency is often misdiagnosed- slips completely off the medical radar- for a variety of reasons having to do with our method for diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency, in addition to the fact that there are so many illnesses that occur at the same time that have similar symptoms.
If you already suffer from chronic depression or fibromyalgia, how would you know if you were running perilously close to developing pernicious anemia, unless your doctor screened for it routinely? (Most doctors don’t)
The problem with diagnosing the early signs of pernicious anemia is compounded by the fact that the medical community doesn’t consider it an epidemic anymore- not since scientists discovered a way of curing lethal pernicious anemia with vitamin B12 supplementation.
For many physicians, pernicious anemia awareness is practically an oxymoron.
7 Reasons for the B12 epidemic
Here are some of the main reasons that vitamin B12 deficiency continues to develop among millions of US citizens between the ages of 40 and 65:
1) The nationally accepted standard for normal levels of serum vitamin B12 is too low to prevent many of the debilitating ailments that occur when levels are moderate to low.
2) Other tests which can be used to diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency, such as the methylmalonic acid or homocysteine test, are often ignored.
3) The average medical student receives little or no training in how to detect and treat pernicious anemia.
4) People who are most at risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiency- senior citizens, diabetics, autoimmune disorder patients, or recipients of gastric bypass- are rarely reminded to check their vitamin B12 levels.
5) Elderly citizens who fall frequently aren’t tested regularly for vitamin B12 deficiency, even though gait disturbances, dizziness, and balance problems are typical signs of pernicious anemia.
6) Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia often mask underlying vitamin B12 deficiency; nevertheless, doctors rarely conduct B12 screenings for patients with dementia, despite scientific evidence proving its beneficial properties for people suffering from memory loss, confusion, and paranoia.
What do you think?
Should pernicious anemia be recognized as an epidemic worthy of more research?
Should we raise our standards for detecting vitamin B12 deficiency, even when levels are moderate to low?
Does your doctor give enough attention to symptoms such as fatigue, memory loss, brain fog, or “pins and needles?”
Image courtesy of Hey Paul