Vitamin B12 deficiency is often undetected, despite that fact that it’s one of the leading, fastest growing vitamin deficiencies affecting adults across all age groups. So, why is vitamin B12 deficiency, including pernicious anemia, so often misdiagnosed or completely ignored?
Undetected Vitamin B12 deficiency
An estimated 40% of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have mild vitamin B12 deficiency, but most will never get diagnosed- not until their vitamin B12 levels dip to a dangerous low, causing severe neurological, physical, and emotional problems.
Why are doctors missing this?
Although scientists have known about the risks of getting pernicious anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency for almost 100 years, many doctors neglect to include vitamin B12 blood testing as part of your routine checkup. This is one reason that vitamin B12 deficiency often goes undetected or misdiagnosed as other similar ailments like hypothyroid or diabetic neuropathy.
Another possible explanation for undetected vitamin B12 deficiency comes from a disagreement over what constitutes low vitamin B12 levels. In the US, “normal vitamin B12 levels” may range from 200 and 900 picograms per milliliter. But many people who report symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency fall into that normal range, so clearly the standard for defining B12 deficiency needs to be updated.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
Since vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is such an essential nutrient for your body, the warning signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are manifested in many seemingly unrelated ailments.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Cognitive decline, including severe memory problems, fatigue, shortened attention span, confusion, brain fog, and trouble concentrating
- Mental illness, including depression, anxiety, paranoia, aggression, moodiness, and hallucinations
- Physical ailments, including painful numbness and tingling in hands and feet, burning mouth sensation, muscular soreness, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and skin itching.
- Neurological damage, including poor motor control, difficulty walking, muscular twitching, vision problems, and altered taste perception.
- Cardiovascular risks include breathlessness, heart palpitations, and increased risk for heart disease and stroke because of uncontrolled homocysteine levels.
- Change of appearance, including pale skin, mouth sores, ridged fingernails, unusual bruising, and thinning hair.
Say, “I want my B12 test!”
Even if you eat plenty of B12-rich foods like beef, chicken, and fish, you may still be at risk, as many factors may interfere with your ability to digest vitamin B12 from food.
One blood test is all that is required to diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency, so ask for it immediately. Untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms may escalate into severe neurological damage, osteoporosis, or heart attack.
Once diagnosed, you may be required to submit to vitamin B12 injections on a regular basis.
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