Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for your overall well-being. Yet many people suffer from B12 deficiency in India. Over 650 million people lack this essential component in their body which can produce a range of troublesome physical and mental health symptoms. Vitamin B12 aids in forming red blood cells and DNA as well as development of brain and nerve cells. When you aren’t consuming enough Vitamin B12 in your diet, you may suffer from a series of signs and symptoms, some of which can be extremely serious. Vitamin B12 can affect your heart health, nerve function and even blood pressure. Its deficiency can also show up in the form numbness of limbs, mouth ulcers or inflammation, fatigue, headache among other signs. (Also read: Micronutrient deficiencies and diet steps to overcome them)
While Vitamin B12 and folate deficiency is common in older people, it can happen at any age. Vegetarians are more likely to have lower levels of this nutrient in their body as they do not consume meat, fish, eggs and other non-vegetarian foods. Additionally, people who have pernicious anaemia, digestive issues and alcohol use disorder can also develop Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Dr Rajiv Dang, Medical Director & HOD – Internal Medicine, Max Hospital Gurgaon shares list of 8 telltale signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency in the body.
1. Mouth ulcers or inflammation in mouth
One of the signs of B12 deficiency is inflammation or ulcers in the mouth as we call as glossitis (inflammation of the tongue) and stomatitis (inflammation of the oral mucosa). It can be because of many other reasons also but we find it commonly in B12 deficiency. Also, most of the patients might experience a loss of taste of things.
2. Numbness or tingling sensation
Paresthesia is defined as a difference or a variation in the appreciation of sensation of any part of body. So, having a different kind of skin irritation or Paresthesia as we call it is some kind of numbness and tingling sensation. These are often found in limbs more because this chemical B12 is responsible for proper functioning of the nerves.
3. Memory issues, depression
Similarly, the B12 requirement is there for proper functioning of brain. So, in case there is a deficiency of B12 then even mental functions of the individual can slow down, which can lead to easy fatigue, easy forgetfulness and inability to recollect names, numbers or doing simple calculations. There are patients who for similar reasons are also shown to have some kind of depression and variations in their thought processes and emotional well being.
Having extreme fatigue, weakness, pain in limbs, inability to work and exercise are some other signs of B12 deficiency. Due to the low supply of B12 to various nerves, the muscles become sore and fatigued.
Another common symptom that we encounter in the deficiency is headache which can be disturbing, which may not have any specific pattern or daytime duration pattern and we might end up doing a lot of investigative work up and not finding anything. So, looking of vitamin B12 levels is very important especially in all those people who have been following vegan diet with little of the animal-based products.
6. Heart issues
Few of these patients may experience cardiac symptoms, which could be in the form of fainting, reduced blood pressure and which could even in the form of palpitations. Since the nerve function is grossly affected by the deficiency or is grossly dependent upon availability of B12, so there are patients who have shown even thinning of their spinal cord and this can be a very deteriorating condition with some serious consequences. So the possibility of this has to be kept in in mind while we are treating such patients.
7. Eyesight issues
A lack of vitamin B12 can occasionally cause eyesight issues. Low B12 levels can lead to optic neuropathy, a disorder in which the visual nerve is harmed. This may cause hazy or distorted vision, trouble recognising colours, and in extreme cases, visual loss. Although it is a rare symptom, it emphasises how critical it is to address B12 insufficiency right away to avoid subsequent problems.