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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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    • Mezo profile image

      Motaz 7 years ago from Egypt

      Thank you for commenting, dear Princessa. The treatment is different for each type of anemia and as you said, it comes and goes, and our food and eating habits can affect it, too.

      I wish you wellness and happiness forever :)

      Stay well


    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 7 years ago from France

      Very interesting information Mezo. I have suffered from anemia (on and off) since I can remember and appart from having iron supplements and the odd intravenus iron drip the doctors never have come up with any other solution.

      I'll have a deeper look into this one. Thanks!

    • Mezo profile image

      Motaz 7 years ago from Egypt

      Patty: thnx alot...I'm glad to hear you are better now, it was just a matter of eating the right foods

      TnFlash: thank you for stopping by :)

    • TnFlash profile image

      TnFlash 7 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Excellent Hub! This is information I had not seen before. Thanks for publishing it. Good Work!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Informative Hub, so Thumbs up! I had B12 deficiency anemia 6 months into my first full-time job, but went to the doctor with symptoms fatigue and pallor and received nutritional advice as well as an injection. One injection seemed to do the trick, along with remembering to eat lunch, and to eat a balanced diet.

    • Mezo profile image

      Motaz 7 years ago from Egypt

      Good for you :D...thnx for your comment

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      Fortunately, it looks like I get my daily dosage.