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Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia : Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Updated on July 2, 2011

Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia

Vitamins B12 deficiency anemia is one of the common anemias in malnourished persons and vegetarians. Vitamin B12 is obtained mainly from animal sources specially meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products. So, it can occur in prolonged periods of malnutrition or unbalanced eating.

Vitamin C, E, B6, B10 and B12 are important in the formation of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and their deficiency can cause disturbance in the formation of RBCs, a process called "erythripoiesis".

In addition in its rule in the synthesis of RBCs, Vitamin B12 also plays a role in formation of the myelin sheath around the nerves, that's why Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include some neurological disturbances.

Causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency

The body stores can be depleted after prolonged periods of inadequate intake of animal products but this is not the most common cause.

Other causes include problems in Vitamin B12 absorption from the stomach and intestine. This can occur in people with intrinsic factor deficiency (which helps B12 absorption) and in those with juvenile pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disease where the body produces antibodies that attack the parietal cells in the stomach, the ones responsible for secretion of the intrinsic factor.

The cause may also be failure of absorption in the small intestine in some intestinal diseases and in parasitic infestation.

Other causes include congenital disorders of vitamin B12 transport and metabolism in the body, drugs such as colchicine and liver diseases.

Vitamins B12 deficiency symptoms

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include:

  • Pallor, weakness, fatigue and tachycardia.
  • Palpitations.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Difficulty in concentration and irritability.
  • In severe cases, symptoms of what is called "Sub-acute Combined Degeneration" can occur and they include:

    • Numbness and tingling in the peripheries.
    • Tingling and pain in the palm of the hands and the tongue.
    • Impaired sensations and maybe impaired equilibrium.
    • Abnormal reflexes.
    • Atrophy in the peripheries.

Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia diagnosis and treatment

A complete blood count will show the picture of megaloblastic anemia. Serum Vitamin B12 levels are usually low but serum homocystiene and methlmalonic acid seem to be better indicators. Schilling test can be used to suspect the cause of the vitamin b12 as malabsorption, ileal diseases r intrinsic factor deficiency.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is treated by giving vitamin B12 in the form of oral pills, nasal spray and intramuscular injection for a few weeks or may be for life in some cases, it differs according to the cause of vitamin B12 deficiency.


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