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Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms are important to spot, particularly if you’re unsure if you are getting enough of the essential vitamin in your diet. If B12 is in short supply, DNA production will be impacted, and this can cause a variety of health issues. Taking a close inspection of your face will provide some clues hinting to a deficiency.
According to WebMD, symptoms indicating you are low in B12 include:
- Weakness, tiredness, or light-headedness
- Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- A smooth tongue
- Constipation, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, or gas
- Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
- Vision loss
- Mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioural changes.
People with a B12 deficiency often look pale or have a slight yellow tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes, a condition known as jaundice.
This happens when a lack of B12 causes problems with your body’s red blood cell production.
The cause for this lies in the essential vitamin’s role in the production of DNA which is needed to make red blood cells.
When the body is lacking in this, the instructions for building the cells are incomplete and cells are unable to divide.
This causes a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia, in which the red blood cells produced in your bone marrow are large and fragile.
These red blood cells are too large to pass out of your bone marrow and into your circulation.
Therefore, you don’t have as many red blood cells circulating around your body, and your skin can appear pale in colour.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLB), a smooth tongue can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
A smooth tongue is a sign of glossitis, which can be triggered by a lack of the vitamin.
Glossitis is a medical term used to describe an inflamed tongue, and alongside a smooth and shiny appearance the condition is characterised by a sore and reddened tongue.
It is important to note that glossitis can also be caused by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection.
Conditions which could increase a B12 deficiency include:
- Atrophic gastritis, in which your stomach lining has thinned
- Pernicious anaemia, which makes it hard for your body to absorb vitamin B12
- Conditions that affect your small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite
- Alcohol misuse or heavy drinking can make it harder for your body to absorb nutrients or prevent you from eating enough calories. One sign that you lack enough B12 may be glossitis, or a swollen, inflamed tongue.
- Immune system disorders, such as Graves’ disease or lupus
- Certain medications.
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