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Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 performs a number of pivotal roles in the body and these roles are responsible for both physical and mental processes. Lacking in the essential vitamin could cause pernicious anaemia. What are the six signs to look out for?

Bupa explains: “Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune disease, amitriptyline toxicity caused by antibodies from your immune system attacking your own body tissue, which it mistakes as being foreign. This causes inflammation in the lining of your stomach.

“Normally, a protein known as intrinsic factor, which is made in your stomach, attaches to the vitamin B12 released from the food you have eaten and then carries the vitamin through your bowel wall into your blood.

“If you have pernicious anaemia, the stomach cells that produce intrinsic factor may be damaged, meaning vitamin B12 can no longer be absorbed and a deficiency develops, leading to anaemia.”

Bupa lists six signs to look out for. If you experience any of these, see your GP:

  • Feeling very tired
  • Breathlessness even after a little exercise
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • A reduced appetite
  • A sore mouth and tongue.

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Other vitamin B-12 deficiencies, such as that caused by poor dietary intake, are often confused with pernicious anaemia.

Pernicious anaemia is mainly thought to be an autoimmune disorder that hurts the parietal cells in the stomach. 

However, pernicious anaemia may also have a genetic component to it as well, potentially running in families.

Pernicious anaemia and anaemia due to small intestinal malabsorption can be treated with an intramuscular B-12 injection by your physician.

High dose oral vitamin B-12 supplementation may be an effective option for some people with pernicious anaemia, as well.

Treatment

If a person is not getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet they may be advised by a GP to eat more food fortified with vitamin B12 or to take regular supplements.

Vitamin B12 injections may also be recommended, and for those with pernicious anaemia, injections may be required for the rest of their lives.

Experts say adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms (mg) a day of vitamin B12, and unless you have pernicious anaemia, you should be able to get this through your diet.

Foods such as beef, eggs, fortified cereals and salmon.

If your vitamin B12 deficiency is not caused by a lack of vitamin B12 in your diet, you’ll usually need to have an injection of hydroxocobalamin every two to three for the rest of your life.

If you have had neurological symptoms that affect your nervous system, such as numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, you’ll be referred to a haematologist and may need to have injections every two months.

A haematologist will advise on how long you need to keep taking the injections.

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