Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Among other things, vitamin B12 is needed to make red blood cells and maintain a healthy nervous system. Naturally, you do not appreciate these contributions until they are absent. B12 deficiency can have pernicious effects.
One telltale sign you have low B12 levels is “drenching” night sweats, according to an article published in the Electronic Journal of General Medicine.
A series of patients with functional vitamin B12 deficiency also described fatigue, the article states.
Other signs of B12 deficiency include:
- Muscle weakness
- Vision problems
- Pins and needles
- Sore tongue or mouth ulcers
- Issues with memory
It’s important to act on the warning signs of B12 deficiency if you spot them.
“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” explains the NHS.
It’s important for vitamin B12 deficiency to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
“This is because although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible,” warns the NHS.
What causes low B12?
There are two leading causes of B12 deficiency – pernicious anaemia and diet.
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The former is the most common cause of B12 deficiency in the UK. It is an autoimmune condition which means your immune system – the body’s natural defence system that protects against illness and infection – attacks your body’s healthy cells.
Some people can develop a vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of not getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet.
A diet that includes meat, fish and dairy products usually provides enough vitamin B12, but people who do not regularly eat these foods can become deficient.
People who eat a vegan diet and do not take vitamin B12 supplements or eat foods fortified with vitamin B12 are therefore at a greater risk.
How to correct B12 deficiency
The treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what’s causing the condition.
Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
Hydroxocobalamin is usually the recommended option as it stays in the body for longer.
According to the NHS, people who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life.
“Although it’s less common, people with vitamin B12 deficiency caused by a prolonged poor diet may be advised to stop taking the tablets once their vitamin B12 levels have returned to normal and their diet has improved.”
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