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Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin of the B group of vitamins. It is also called cobalamin and it plays an important role in the proper brain and nervous system functioning and for the formation of blood.

It is found in foods of animal origin, like shellfish, meat (especially liver), chicken and other poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products. By eating these foods a person guarantees the adequate intake of B12. However, vegans, who do not eat meat, fish, dairy products or eggs, are at risk of developing B12 deficiency and must take supplements.

Most common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are tiredness and fatigue. Depression and memory impairment are also possible symptoms of this deficiency.


When the body does not receive proper amounts of vitamin B12, it starts producing abnormally large red blood cells that do not function properly.

This deficiency can manifest as anemia and have symptoms and complications commonly associated with other types of anemia. Those include tiredness, lethargy, problems with heart like tachycardia and heart failure. In cases of severe anemia, patients need to be admitted in a hospital where their lung and heart functions can be monitored.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect nervous system and lead to complications like blurred vision, memory loss, tingling, difficulty walking or speaking.

This deficiency can also cause temporary infertility, which is reversed as soon as the body receives adequate amounts of B12.

In pregnant women who have B12 deficiency there is a risk of neural tube defect for the baby. This condition affects growth and development. Baby can be at risk of spina bifida, where the spine is not developed properly, anencephaly, a condition that affects baby’s skull and brain.

Psychologically, this deficiency can lead to depression, anxiety, irritation, mania, psychosis and personality changes.

Some of the signs that may indicate that a person has vitamin B12 deficiency include itching, stinging or tingling of the tongue, especially around the edges or on the tip, sharp and sudden pain in the palm of a hand, white spots on the skin due to absence of melanin, sores in the corners of the mouth, twitching of facial muscles, especially around the eye, pain in the face, short breath, migraine, tingling in thighs, memory loss, irritation, depression.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is treated by administering supplements of this vitamin. In milder cases it can be part of B group of vitamins supplement or taken individually in form of a pill, but in severe cases it is usually injected.

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