FAQs Vitamin B12 & Folic Acid Deficiency

FAQs Vitamin B12 & Folic Acid Deficiency

What are the symptoms?

What are the specific symptoms of B12 deficiency pernicious anemia?

What are the risks?

What should be done?

What are the treatments?

Both Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid are needed for red blood cell production which takes place in the bone marrow.  If your body is deficient in either of these nutrients or there is a reduced ablility to absorb them ( ie surgury, damaged digestive tract, celiac disease)   and your body depletes its stored B12 from the liver, anemia results.

B12 Deficiency  & Pernicious Anemia

There are various reasons why some people cannot absorb B 12 . Your body normally absorbs B 12 from the lower small intestine. In some people,  an autoimmune response may  lead to the destruction of stomach lining cells (gastric parietal cells) which leads to the reduction of intrinsic factor which is needed for B12′s absorption. Without it, sufficient quantities of vitamin B 12 cannot be absorbed. This is the most common type of B 12 deficiency, and it is called pernicious anemia a type of  megaloblastic anemia.

Pernicious anemia, is equally common in men and women, and rare before the age of 40. If you have a close relative who has pernicious anemia, you have a greater than average risk of contracting it.

Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia

Folic acid deficiency is usually due to inadequate amounts of the vitamin in the diet. Folic acid is generally supplied by green vegetables. Your body cannot build large reserves of this vitamin, so any deficiency shows up within a few weeks as a form of anemia called folic acid deficiency. If you have celiac disease you are also susceptible to folic acid deficiency because you cannot absorb sufficient amounts of folic acid, even if it is plentiful in your diet. Finally, there are some people who have an increased requirement for folic acid, and they need more of the vitamin than an ordinary diet provides.

Folic acid deficiency is somewhat more common than B 12 deficiency. It often occurs in elderly people, who may live on a poor diet. It also occurs in pregnant women, who need extra supplies of the vitamin for the developing baby. It is particularly common in cases of severe alcoholism, because alcoholics often do not eat properly.

What are the symptoms?

Both types of anemia produce the symptoms associated with anemia in general, but B I2 deficiency anemia is more serious, because B 12 is vital to the maintenance of the nervous system as well as to the production of red blood cells. Deficiency of B I2 therefore damages the brain and spinal cord, which causes additional symptoms.

The main symptoms of B 12 and folic acid deficiency anemia are those of other anemias.

They include paleness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and palpitations, or heart fluttering, particularly if you exert yourself. In both disorders, your mouth and tongue may be sore, and your skin may become yellow in color.

What are the specific symptoms of B12 deficiency pernicious anemia?

  • Fatigue, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, pallor, depression, muscle weakness and shortness of breath (known as ‘the sighs’)
  • Sore tongue
  • Low grade fevers
  • Difficulty in proprioception
  • Difficulty concentrating and sluggish responses, |brain fog
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, impaired urination, weight loss
  • Unsteady gait, clumsiness, loss of sensation in the feet
  • Pins and needles sensations or numbness in fingers or toes
  • Jaundice due to impaired formation of blood cells
  • Glossitis (swollen red tongue) due to B12 deficiency
  • May present with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
  • Personality or memory changes
  • Long term complications may include gastric cancer and carcinoids

What are the risks?

If you have B I2 or folic acid deficiency anemia, and if it is treated promptly, you will probably recover completely. If you do not obtain prompt treatment for B 12 deficiency anemia you risk permanent damage to your spinal cord and, to a lesser extent, irreversible intellectual impairment.

What should be done?

If you have symptoms of anemia, see your physician. If your movement, balance or memory are also affected, make the appointment without delay. Be sure to tell the physician if you have a close relative who has pernicious anemia. Tests on a blood sample can usually establish whether or not you have either of these vitamin deficiencies. But if you have one of them, the underlying cause usually can be determined only by examining the results of further tests.

What is the treatment?

B12 & Folic Acid injections are beneficial for those who have reduced ability to absorb these nutrients through a damaged digestive lining .

Folic acid deficiency that is caused by an inadequate diet can be cleared up completely.