Treating this condition promptly can help prevent serious complications, like confusion and depression.
Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when your body lacks enough healthy red blood cells due to insufficient amounts of vitamin B12.
Red blood cells carry oxygen to, and remove carbon dioxide from, your body's tissues.
If you lack enough red blood cells, you may feel tired and experience shortness of breath.
Treating vitamin B12 deficiency immediately can help prevent serious complications, like confusion and depression.
Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
An insufficient diet, certain health conditions, and heartburn medicine can all contribute to not getting enough vitamins, including B12.
Foods high in vitamin B12 include meat, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products.
Following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet without ingesting any animal products, having a poor diet while pregnant, or being fed a poor diet as an infant can all lead to vitamin B12 deficiency.
The following conditions can inhibit your body from absorbing enough vitamin B12:
- Crohn's disease
- Celiac disease
- Pernicious anemia
- Digestive disorders
- Fish tapeworm infection
- Surgeries that remove certain parts of your stomach or small intestine
Long-term use of antacids and other heartburn medicines can also cause vitamin B12 deficiency.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Some don't show any symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency, while others may experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Pale skin
- Lack of focus
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen, red tongue
- Bleeding gums
Long-term vitamin B12 deficiency can cause:
- Loss of balance
- Numbness and tingling in your hands and feet
Treatment of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Treatment involves raising your vitamin B12 levels and will vary based on the cause of your deficiency.
Your doctor may recommend:
- Shots of vitamin B12 (monthly or more often, if needed)
- Vitamin B12 supplements, in pill form or as a nasal spray
- Treatment of underlying conditions, such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, or alcoholism
- Dietary changes
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Anemia — B12 Deficiency; MedlinePlus.
- Vitamin deficiency anemia; Mayo Clinic.