B-12 Deficiency: Symptoms and Prevention
B-12 is a water soluble vitamin, found primarily in animal foods like meat and dairy products. The reason for this is because bacteria – found in an animal’s mouth and intestines – produce B-12.
Because animal foods are the primary source of B-12 for most people, some experts believe vegans and vegetarians are at risk for a B-12 deficiency. But statistics seem to indicate that vegetarians are at no greater risk for this vitamin deficiency than the rest of the meat-eating population.
In fact, a B-12 deficiency can be caused by a number of factors. Various health issues – unrelated to diet – may cause a lack of absorption of B-12 or the inability to properly process it in the body.
Therefore, it’s important that everyone be cognizant of the symptoms related to a B-12 deficiency. Here are a few of the most common:
Fatigue: If you’re feeling extremely tired – especially if you are exhausted or short of breath after taking just a few steps – you may have a B-12 deficiency.
Tingling in extremities: Some B-12 deficient patients experience strange sensations in their hands and feet. These sensations are often described as either tingling or numbness.
Sore tongue: Oddly enough, people with B-12 deficiencies sometimes complain of a sore tongue. The soreness may come and go, and there are typically no visible signs of wounds or sores.
Hearing or vision problems: Any change in hearing or vision could indicate a B-12 deficiency. Some people experience blurred vision – similar to that of a migraine headache – that may or may not be accompanied by pain.
Personality changes: A B-12 deficiency will eventually affect the patient’s personality, particularly if the deficiency is left untreated. Depression, confusion and irritability are a few of the personality changes that might appear.
Remember: Any of these symptoms may also be an indicator of another health problem, disease or condition. Do not try and self-diagnose your problem based on one or two symptoms. Instead, see a physician and express your concerns. Your doctor will run the appropriate tests to determine if you are B-12 deficient.
If you do have a B-12 deficiency, your physician will likely recommend a series of B-12 shots. These shots have been proven to be highly effective in combating a deficiency. Depending on your personal situation, you may need to get these shots every week, every month or every year.
Although some health problems make it impossible to really prevent a B-12 deficiency, you can lower your risk by regularly taking a B-12 supplement. You can find one in any health store or drugstore.