Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Vitamin B12 or B9 deficiency, also known as folate deficiency anaemia, impacts around six percent of people under 60 and 20 percent of people over 60. The nutrient helps to keep your body’s blood and nerve cells healthy, make DNA and prevent megaloblastic anaemia. The symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency can be severe, so it’s important to top up your stores with supplements or the jab. Who should get the Vitamin B12 injection?
Vitamin B12 (also referred to as B9 or folate) deficiency anaemia happens when a lack of vitamin B12 causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that can’t function properly.
Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body using haemoglobin, but if you’re anaemic you either have fewer red blood cells than normal or an abnormally low amount of haemoglobin in each red blood cell.
The most common cause of Vitamin B12 deficiency is pernicious anaemia, but it can also happen as a result of certain medicines, or you can simply the vitamins in your diet if you are vegan or have a generally poor diet.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is easy to solve, so don’t put up with the horrible symptoms if you’re experiencing them.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms
A deficiency in Vitamin B12 or folate can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms, including:
- Extreme tiredness
- A lack of energy
- Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
- A sore and red tongue
- Mouth ulcers
- Muscle weakness
- Disturbed vision
- Psychological problems, which may include depression and confusion
- Problems with memory, understanding and judgement
If you’re experiencing any of the above, see your GP to get a diagnosis and treatment.
Who should get the Vitamin B12 injection?
If you have symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency you can get a test from your GP or privately for Vitamin B12, Folate and Intrinsic Factor Antibodies (IFAs).
You can even get at-home test kits from Superdrug Online doctor and elsewhere to speed up the process and then bring these results to your GP appointment.
The treatment method depends on the cause of your deficiency.
The NHS site states that Vitamin B12 supplements are usually given to those diagnosed with a deficiency by injection at first rather than through tablets.
Then, depending on whether your B12 deficiency is related to your diet, you’ll either require B12 tablets between meals or regular injections.
Since Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products mainly, vegans are most at risk of developing deficiency associated with diet, but it’s easily fixed with tablets.
If the deficiency is caused by pernicious anaemia, your immune system is attacking the healthy cells in your stomach and preventing your body from absorbing B12 from the food you eat, so you’ll need the injection to fix the problem.
The injection is very safe, but you might experience some pain, swelling or redness at the site of injection, or even headaches, itching or nausea in rare cases.
Whether you take the injection or tablets, you’ll need to keep these treatments up forever (or as long as the deficiency persists if it’s caused by diet).
If you take the jab, you’ll need to get it done every two to three months for the rest of your life.
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