- 27 February 2019
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Vitamin B12: An Essential Vitamin for Your Brain and Nerves
Vitamin B12; it is one of the most important B vitamins. It is also called Cobalamin. It is a water-soluble vitamin which plays a crucial role in maintaining your brain and nervous system in good shape. Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin plays a significant role in the formation of red blood cells, metabolism of cells, proper functioning of the nervous system and brain, and also in the production of DNA.
This vitamin helps in a lot of functions in your body, but the vitamin is not produced in the body. The only way to get it is to consume animal-based foods and their supplements like meat, fish and dairy products etc. It is also available in the form of oral supplements, vitamin B-12 injections or nasal sprays prescribed to treat vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Untreated cobalamin deficiency can lead to different problems like anaemia, intestinal problems, fatigue, nerve damage, muscle weakness and mood disturbances.
The recommended and required daily amount of vitamin B-12 for adults is about 2.4 micrograms.
Causes Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The human body can of store vitamin B12 reserves for some years so that deficiency might be rare. However, people who maintain a vegetarian diet strictly are at more risk in developing vitamin B12 deficiency because plant foods do not contain vitamin B-12. Others who are susceptible to the deficiency of vitamin B-12 are older adults and people who are having digestive tract problems and unable to absorb nutrients properly.
The main causes of vitamin B12 deficiency may include inadequate diet, parasite infections, bacterial diseases, using antacids for a long-term, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, pernicious anaemia, consumption of excess alcohol, vegetarian diet, being elderly, less absorption of nutrients in the body due to the deficiency of intrinsic factor, and impact of medicines and other medical conditions.
Deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to permanent nerve and brain damage. Some people with this deficiency are at higher risk of developing mania, psychosis, and dementia.
Signs Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency might take some time to manifest; therefore, diagnosing early and taking proper measures during the early stage itself helps in preventing further complications.
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency show up gradually over a period of time which include general weakness, light-headedness, muscular, Vision loss, weakness, depression, confusion, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
If the deficiency becomes severe, it may lead to anaemia with the symptoms of fatigue, an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, menstrual problems for girls, weight loss etc.
Along with these, some other symptoms of the neurological changes also include, such as numbness and tingling sensation in the hands and feet, memory problems, difficulty in maintaining balance.
Diagnosing Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Usually, vitamin deficiency is diagnosed, through blood tests and in the test doctors will check for,
- The appearance of red blood cells: People suffering from anaemia developed due to vitamin B12 deficiency have fewer blood cells. In advanced stages, the count of white blood cells and platelets might also decrease and look abnormal under the microscope.
- The amount of folate, vitamin C in blood: Doctors measure the amount folate and vitamin C levels in the blood at the same time because these deficiencies are also associated with the signs and symptoms.
If the blood test for vitamin deficiency is positive, then doctors might perform some other tests to determine the type and cause, which include:
- Antibodies test: The doctor might take a blood sample and check for antibodies to intrinsic factor where the presence indicates pernicious anaemia.
- Methylmalonic acid test: The doctor performs a blood test and checks for the presence of a substance called methylmalonic acid. The level of this substance will be higher in people with a deficiency of vitamin B-12.
- Schilling test: Initially, a tiny amount of radioactive vitamin B12 is ingested, and later your blood is checked whether your body absorbs vitamin B12 or not, again a combination of radioactive vitamin B12 and intrinsic factor(glycoprotein) is ingested. If the radioactive B12 is absorbed when taken with an intrinsic factor, then it shows that you are lack of intrinsic factor which enables the body to absorb vitamin B12.
The doctor may also recommend some test if the doctor suspects certain risk factors like atrophic gastritis, a family history of anaemia, intestinal surgery one of the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency in a patient.
How To Prevent Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented by taking seafood, dairy products, meat, liver, eggs, fish, cheese, milk, etc.
Are you a vegetarian, even though there are lots of options to prevent the deficiency of vitamin B12. If you don’t eat non-veg or having any other medical conditions that restrict your body to absorb nutrients, you can take a vitamin B12 supplement and other foods which are fortified with vitamin B12.
If you want to take any vitamin B12 supplements, the best way is to consult a doctor and follow the diet and the treatment suggested by the doctor. There are certain health conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, pernicious anaemia and some other severe infections which make a person deficient in vitamin B12. Therefore, it is better to meet a doctor to get the best treatment. We, at sunshine hospitals having expert doctors to treat such conditions.
About The Doctor:
Dr. Vikram Sharma
Senior Consultant Neurologist
Dr. Vikram Sharma is a Senior Consultant Neurologist at Sunshine Hospitals. He is one of the best neurologists in Hyderabad with more than 16 years of experience in neurology. With his immense experience as a neuro physician, he treats all types of neurological conditions including headaches, migraines, muscle weakness, body pains, back pain, weakness in hands and legs. He has done his MD, Dip. Neurology in London and FAAN in the USA. He also possesses hands-on experience in treating epilepsy and stroke patients.
About Sunshine Hospitals:
A Multi Super Speciality Institution, 500 bedded Sunshine Hospitals (Paradise Circle, Secunderabad) is promoted by globally reputed Joint Replacement Surgeon Dr AV Gurava Reddy (Orthopedic Doctor) and like-minded associates who share the objective of making world-standard healthcare available, affordable and accessible to the common man. Sunshine has now become one of the best hospitals for many treatments including Orthopedic, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, Trauma and Neurology.