The symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are strikingly similar to other illnesses. For this reason, it is important to become familiar with the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency in order to treat it properly. People who are at greatest risk for this are smokers, vegans, anyone over the age of fifty, and children of vegans. Here is a partial list of symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Fatigue – Suffering from a lack of energy. Since vitamin B12 is necessary for proper blood cell formation, a lack of vitamin B12 leads to smaller blood cells, and therefore carries less oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the body, leading to fatigue.
- Memory loss – Forgetfulness of important information. As mentioned previously, vitamin B12 is necessary for blood cell formation. Low levels of B12 lead to smaller blood cells, and less nutrients for the body and the brain. In the case of someone with a severe vitamin B12 deficiency, the memory loss can be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia.
- Depression – Feelings of sadness and worthlessness are often attributed to an underlying mental illness, and a vitamin B12 deficiency may go unnoticed.
- Anemia – A low red cell blood count. A vitamin B12 deficiency leads to the creation of fewer red blood cells in the body.
- Vision loss – Vitamin B12 is necessary for the proper formation of nerve cells in the body. Specifically, vitamin B12 is needed for the fatty membrane surrounding the nerve cells, known as the myelin sheath. Without this myelin sheath, the electrical signals being passed by the nerve cells go haywire in the body, with many consequences. This loss of vision can be reversed with injections of vitamin B12.
- Dizziness – Poor coordination and clumsiness may be due to a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. As mentioned previously, improperly formed nerve cells cause electrical impulses to be lost in transmission.
- Muscle weakness – Muscle weakness can be in the arms or legs, also due to nerve cell issues.
- Tingling sensation in either the hands or feet – Low levels of vitamin B12 affects nerve cell development, and loss of muscle control is a symptom of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Urinary incontinence – Also a loss of muscle control due to low levels of vitamin B12.
- Paralysis – A total loss of muscle control sets in when stores of vitamin B12 are depleted from the body.
As you can see, many symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can be easily confused with symptoms of other illnesses. If you are suffering from any of the above, you should have your blood tested for a vitamin B12 deficiency.