Vitamin B12 plays a key role in red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function and the production of DNA so lacking the vitamin can disrupt these vital bodily processes. If left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause permanent damage so it is important to spot the warning signs and see the appropriate treatment.
In addition to pale yellow skin, people with a vitamin B12 deficiency may also experience:
- A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
- Mouth ulcers
- Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
- Changes in the way that you walk and move around
- Disturbed vision
- Changes in the way you think, feel and behave
- A decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and Judgement (dementia)
When to see a GP
According to the NHS, a vitamin B12 deficiency can be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test so it is important to contact your GP if you experience any of the above symptoms.
It is also important to get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible because although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.
“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage,” warned the NHS.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products, there are other foods that contain vitamin B12, such as yeast extract (including Marmite), as well as some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products, notes the NHS.
“Check the nutrition labels while food shopping to see how much vitamin B12 different foods contain,” said the health body.
If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may also be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals.
People who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, for example, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life.