Vitamin B12 Deficiency

milkA deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to a number of conditions. This can easily happen if a person is not taking a careful watch of his diet. Vitamin B12 deficiency is actually a fairly common condition in older adults. A deficiency on the said vitamin is more commonly called as pernicious anemia.

What is pernicious anemia?

Pernicious anemia is a condition that affects about 10 to 15 percent of seniors aged 65 and above. It is a form of anemia in which the body is unable to absorb the vitamin B12 that it needs from the digestive tract. Vitamin B12, also known as cyanocobalamine or cobalmin is an essential nutrient that is required by the body for the development of healthy red blood cells. It also plays an important role in the normal function of the body’s nervous system.

Vitamin B12 can be found primarily in meat, milk products, eggs as well as yeast extracts. The requirement of the said vitamin is about 2 micrograms daily. It can be easily be provided by eating meat, poultry and dairy products. Vegans may sometimes have more risks with vitamin B12 deficiency since they avoid eating meat products. A difficulty of absorbing vitamin B can also lead to a deficiency.

Causes of pernicious anemia

One of the common causes of pernicious anemia is the absence the intrinsic factor. It is a type of protein that is produced by cells in the stomach that links with vitamin B12 and then is absorbed by the body and gets stored in the liver. Another cause of the deficiency may also be brought about by other conditions that develop in most older people. One of them is atrophic gastritis which is characterized by an inflamed and scarred stomach lining that may lead to a decrease in stomach acids. Absorption of vitamin B requires the presence of stomach acids in the stomach. Using antacids which lower stomach acids may also affect vitamin B absorption.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

The symptoms of vitamin B deficiency may take some time to show since it usually takes years for the body to use up all the vitamin B12 stored in the liver. Symptoms that may show up with the vitamin B12 deficiency may include numbness in the hands and feet, memory loss, irritability, muscle weakness, dementia as well as depression. If not treated, vitamin B deficiency can lead to extensive nerve damage.

Diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency

Diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency can take the form of blood tests. One test may measure vitamin B content in the blood to see if there is any deficiency. Another may test the body’s ability to absorb the said vitamin while while a third tries to determine if the body has antibodies for the intrinsic factor. The earlier the deficiency is recognized, the better that it can be treated and the harmful effects of nerve damage prevented.