Vitamin B12 deficiency
What is a vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in health. The demand can be described as very low, but it must not be missing. Namely, the vitamin contributes to blood formation, cell growth, cell division, formation of the envelope of neurons, production of DNA and RNA and the intake of folic acid.
The important functions of the vitamin at the same time explain the seriousness of a deficiency. This can be due to various factors. Contrary to many rumors, not only vegans and vegetarians suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. Overall, a doctor should be consulted in case of suspicion. Otherwise, there are serious consequences in the long term.
The causes may possibly be in the diet. B12 can only be found in animal products. Accordingly, the risk of suffering from B12 deficiency is higher for people who do not eat meat and / or milk and eggs. Due to suitable preparations, however, such a diet does not pose a fundamental problem. In addition, B12 is found mainly in inner parts, which are consumed relatively seldom in Germany.
The preparation of food can destroy the vitamin. Therefore, a deficiency even in people who do not dispense with animal products, quite possible and common. In some situations, the need of the vitamin may increase. If it is not covered, there may be a shortage. During stress, physical work, lovesickness, sadness or anxiety, the body needs more vitamin B12, which can be attributed to the poorer processing due to stress.
Furthermore, the body uses B12 for the production of various hormones. In such situations, an increased release of adrenaline or dopamine is normal, the memory is used up faster. In a pregnancy, the need usually doubles. Furthermore, a malfunction may be the cause of the symptoms.
Namely, the vitamin is absorbed only via the oral mucosa or the intestine. Intestinal irritation, alcohol abuse or chronic intestinal diseases sometimes limit the absorption capacity. In addition, some medications may inhibit absorption.
Symptoms, complaints & signs
A vitamin B12 deficiency manifests itself in various ways. If it is already pronounced, it leads to depression, fatigue and paleness, confusion, brain weakness, tingling in the hands and feet, injuries of the mucous membranes, paralysis and tongue burns. The typical paleness results from anemia due to the involvement of B12 in the production of red blood cells.
A defect can therefore assume serious proportions. He is often diagnosed late. Accordingly, it may be helpful to openly address your own suspicions. After all, the level of the B12 can be proved perfectly. A defect does not arise overnight. The human organism is able to store vitamin B12 sufficiently.
Therefore, the phenomena make themselves felt only after a few months to years. Until then, the body's resources are sufficient to meet the needs. Because of this, it is unlikely that a vitamin B12 deficiency will be promptly affected by a dietary change to a purely herbal diet.
Diagnosis & disease course
The diagnosis can be made in different ways. It is usual to have a blood test. As a rule, the B12 is not measured directly. For children is a urine test to determine a possible deficiency.
Without treatment, anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to cardiovascular complications: In the long term, increased stress on the heart is possible. The reduced oxygen transport also increases the risk of circulatory collapse. The latter can cause further complications - such as falls, which may result in injury.
The lack of vitamin B12 can also cause complications. Without treatment, permanent neurological disorders are possible. Adequate compensation for the shortage should therefore be made as early as possible. Neurological complaints are manifested in the vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, as a numb feeling or tingling in the arms or legs.
In addition to the general symptoms of anemia, other signs of vitamin B12 anemia may be present. These include fatigue, paleness, indigestion, weakness, gum bleeding and drowsiness. In addition, the rate of heartbeat and respiration may increase.
The psychological complications include memory disorders, confusion, difficulty concentrating and depressed mood. In some cases, psychotic perceptions in the form of hallucinations, flight of thought or similar symptoms are possible. In addition, a severe deficiency of vitamin B12 may indicate personality changes.
In particular, the concentration and memory problems can cause a deterioration in professional or academic performance. Overall, the various symptoms may also contribute to the person withdrawing socially.
When should you go to the doctor?
In the case of a vitamin B12 deficiency, the affected person should always contact a doctor, as it does not come to an independent healing. In order to prevent further complications and a further worsening of the complaints, a doctor should be contacted already at the first symptoms and complaints of the illness.
A doctor should be consulted if the person suffering from chronic fatigue, paleness and depression. It can also indicate confusion or a strong tingling in the hands on the disease. If these symptoms persist for an extended period of time and occur for no particular reason, you should consult a doctor. The symptoms can also occur when the person has changed his diet, as it can also lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency.
In most cases, a vitamin B12 deficiency can be relatively easily detected by a blood test and continue to be treated. In this case, a GP can be contacted, which performs the investigation.
Therapy & Treatment
A defect must necessarily be treated. If it is pronounced, it is often resorted to spraying, which quickly replenish the memory. Such a method is often also necessary if there is a bowel dysfunction. Here, the intake of tablets would show no effect. Furthermore, lozenges can be consumed.
Because the vitamin is also absorbed through the oral mucosa, it is an effective method that is also suitable for children. Many of the preparations are purely vegetable and are thus also recommended for vegetarians and vegans. To treat the deficiency is usually resorted to preparations with a very high dosage. These usually have to be taken daily.
At the beginning of the treatment is a high dosage, which exceeds the actual daily requirement. As soon as the deficiency has disappeared, a maintenance therapy begins whose goal is to meet the daily needs. If you decide to have an injection, you may only need to take the liquid once a month. With a little practice, the syringes can be given at home without medical help. Especially important is a good handling of syringes for people with a bad B12 recovery.
In fact, in such a case, it is likely that even after the removal of the defect, the need for additional B12 supply will remain. Otherwise, a new deficiency would develop. In addition to the treatment of the complaints, the causes are also researched at the same time. If handling with syringes fails, lozenges remain as an alternative.
Particularly in the event of a disruption of the use of high-dose preparations must be taken. These are usually prescribed by the attending physician. Because vitamin B12 can not be overdosed, unwanted side effects can be ruled out.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented. Overall, the vitamin occurs only in small proportions in foods. Therefore, it may be useful to resort to lozenges. This applies in particular to risk groups such as pregnant women, alcoholics, vegans, vegetarians, smokers and nursing mothers. Many of the supplements are natural and have no side effects.
As with generalized vitamin deficiency, there are no strict follow-up guidelines for successfully treated hypocobalaminemia. The complaints caused by the deficiency usually return completely by themselves after a short time. In western countries and industrial nations, irreversible damage caused by vitamin deficiencies requiring treatment is extremely rare.
For successful follow-up it is crucial to pay attention to a balanced diet. Nutritional advice can complement the treatment to this effect. A thorough examination of the underlying processes by the patient allows a self-determined, safe prevention.
If the underlying cause of hypocobalaminemia is an incurable disease, the use of supplements must be continued on a permanent basis. Regardless of the cause of the vitamin B12 deficiency, follow-up should include regular monitoring of B12 levels in the body. Both urine tests and blood tests, which the patient can perform independently at home, are suitable for this purpose.
A new drop in the values can be noticed and prevented in good time. If the B12 reservoir has been completely and correctly refilled in the course of the treatment, no further follow-up treatment is necessary, except for the regular monitoring of the blood values. In the event of sudden onset of symptoms, a doctor should be consulted again.
You can do that yourself
If there is a suspicion of a vitamin B12 deficiency, a doctor's visit is recommended. Mild deficiency symptoms can usually be remedied by changing the diet. The B12 vitamin is contained in animal products such as milk, cheese, eggs, fish and meat. Especially liver, oysters and trout have a high vitamin B12 content. Vegans compensate for a vitamin B12 deficiency using soy milk, sea buckthorn berries or supplements from the pharmacy.
Severe deficiency symptoms must be treated with nutritional supplements. Tablets or pills give the organism sufficient vitamin B12 and counteract the symptoms. Accompanying the change in diet, it is important to identify and remedy the individual complaints. Sufferers are best placed on a complaint diary and also keep in a food diary, the daily consumed food and drinks firmly.
If the symptoms persist despite a change in diet, the doctor must be consulted. A severe and prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency can cause permanent damage that can only be compensated. Typical are visual disturbances or skin changes, which can be treated by aids or cosmetic measures. Which measures make sense in detail can be explained by a specialist or nutritionist.