Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. If the body does not absorb enough of the vitamin, it can, therefore, impede essential processes, which can cause marked and in some cases, irreversible effects. One particularly sinister sign of a prolonged B12 deficiency relates to the eyes.
Other signs you may be deficient
More common symptoms associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- A pale yellow tinge to your skin
- 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)
According to the NHS, you should see GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 because these conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.
It’s also important for vitamin B12 deficiency to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
As the NHS point out, although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition, such as eye problems, can be irreversible if left untreated.
How to treat a B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
After the initial course of injections, your treatment will depend on whether the cause of your vitamin B12 deficiency is related to your diet or whether the deficiency is causing any neurological problems, such as problems with thinking, memory and behaviour, explains the NHS.
If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, for example, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals, says the health site.
What foods contain vitamin B12?
Good sources of vitamin B12 include:
- Salmon and cod
- Milk and other dairy products
“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,” says the NHS.
Although, people who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life, notes the health body.
To help you navigate this area, nutrition labels on the front of food packets usually indicate how vitamin B12 different foods contain.