A deficiency can lead to serious health problems if it is left untreated - here’s how to spot if you have one, and what to do about it.
What are the symptoms?
There are a variety of symptoms that come with a B12 deficiency.
One sign associated with the condition is experiencing heart palpitations.
“Your heart may feel like it's pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for just a few seconds or minutes. You may also feel these sensations in your throat or neck,” explains the NHS.
Another surprising symptom could be identified by the way that you walk.
This is because if a vitamin B12 deficiency is left untreated, it can cause damage to your nervous system, and this damage could affect the way you walk and move. It can affect your balance, coordination and can make you more prone to clumsiness.
According to the NHS, other symptoms that you should keep an eye out for include:
A pale yellow tinge to your skin.
A sore tongue and mouth ulcers.
Pins and needles in your arms and legs.
A feeling of irritability.
A decline in your cognitive abilities, such as your memory, understanding and judgement.
If you think you have the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency, you should make an appointment with your GP.
What happens if it’s left untreated?
A lack of vitamin B12 can cause a whole host of medical problems, if the condition is left without treatment.
Neurological conditions can be caused by the deficiency, such as vision problems, memory loss, nerve damage and changes to your physical coordination which could see you having difficulty walking or speaking.
If neurological conditions do develop, they may be irreversible.
Infertility can be triggered by the condition, but this usually is improved by treatment.
For pregnant women, a B12 deficiency can be extremely serious and could result in developing a birth defect known as neural tube defect.
Neural tube defect can result in conditions such as spina bifida, where the baby’s spine doesn’t develop properly, and anencephaly, where the baby is born missing parts of their brain and skull.
If your B12 deficiency is caused by pernicious anaemia, then your chances of developing stomach cancer are increased.
How is it treated?
Treatment for a vitamin B12 deficiency can vary depending on what the underlying cause for the condition is.
Most people can be treated with injections or tablets to replace the vitamins that they’re lacking in.
Who is most at risk?
Vegans and vegetarians are the most likely to experience the condition, as plants don’t produce vitamin B12.
Good sources of the vitamin are found in meat, salmon, cod, milk and eggs.
For those on a diet without animal products, there are alternative foods that have been fortified with B12, making them a great source of the vitamin for vegans and vegetarians.
Look out for things such as fortified cereals, fortified nutritional yeast and fortified non-dairy milk.