Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Learn more about vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is one of several B vitamins. It is needed to make new red blood cells and help your nervous system work well. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. It is not found naturally in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and cereal grains. Some people need to take vitamin supplements or vitamin B12 shots to get enough.

What are the signs and symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency develops slowly, and symptoms appear so gradually that they can be missed. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia over time. The symptoms of anemia include feeling weak, tired, and faint; heart palpitations; looking pale; and shortness of breath. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause tingling of hands and feet, changes in ability to walk, loss of vision, memory problems, seeing things that aren't there, sadness, and changes in personality. Infants and young children who are vitamin B12 deficient might have problems growing, weak muscle tone, delays in development, and general weakness.

What should I do if I think I might have vitamin B12 deficiency?

If you have those symptoms, set up a time to visit your doctor.

Who is at risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency?

The chances for developing vitamin B12 deficiency increase with age, untreated pernicious anemia, gastric (stomach) surgery, or long-term use of strict vegetarian (vegan) diet. Infants and young children born to and breastfed by women who are vegans are also more likely to develop this deficiency.

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