Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Signs and Symptoms

Vitamin B-12 is a vital cofactor in numerous cellular functions, including DNA synthesis, ATP creation, and proper nerve and brain function. B12 is widely available in the diet, however, many people still suffer from insufficiency or inadequacy. It’s common for people to have low levels of vitamin B-12 owing to a lack of consumption, malabsorption, illness, or medication that blocks its effects. It has been estimated that up to 20% of individuals above the age of Sixty are vitamin D deficient. Those of vitamin B12 between 200 and 300 pg/mL are regarded borderline, whereas levels under 200 pg/mL are deemed inadequate. Older people are more likely to be deficient in vitamin B-12 because of a loss in their ability to absorb the vitamin from their diet. However, this does not rule out the possibility of vitamin B-12 deficiency in kids and younger adults, particularly those who are breastfeeding or pregnant.

Vitamin B-12 insufficiency is frequently misdiagnosed or ignored. Inadequate laboratory tests or symptoms that are not unique to vitamin B-12 insufficiency are common causes. It is crucial to see a doctor if you have any symptoms that could point to a vitamin B-12 deficiency in order to discuss your concerns and get the necessary testing done. This article discusses the most often reported symptoms of vitamin B-12 insufficiency and how to detect and treat that shortage. A shortage of normal blood cells is at the root of many of the symptoms associated with vitamin B-12 insufficiency. High numbers of these cells are necessary for efficient oxygen transportation and normal organ function. Lack of vitamin B-12 has been linked to issues in both mental health and bodily functions. This article examines the signs of vitamin B-12 insufficiency and provides explanations for their development.

What symptoms might you expect to see if you’re lacking in vitamin b-12?

A lack of vitamin B-12 can impact anywhere from 1.5 percent to 15.0 percent of the population. A person may experience a wide variety of symptoms as a result of this deficit, which can have an impact on both their physical and emotional well-being. On a consistent basis, it is essential to take in nutrients in the form of foods that are rich in vitamin B-12. Each day, an adult has to consume approximately 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12. If a person does not consume any items derived from animals, they will need to supplement their diet with vegetarian and plant-based sources of vitamin B-12.

Cereal grains, plant milk, and nutritional yeast are some examples of these fortified foods. It is likely that individuals will not realize that they have a vitamin B-12 deficiency, and it is also imaginable that they will not acquire a diagnosis for it because the symptoms are so similar to those of other vitamin deficiencies and health issues. Individuals can be assisted in recognizing the deficit and locating treatment options if they are conscious of all of the symptoms.

Following are the indicators of vitamin b-12 deficiency


Fatigue is a common symptom of low levels of B12 in the body or a B12 deficiency. In order to carry out their intended functions, the cells in your body require B12. Because of this, having insufficient levels of B12 can lead to a decrease in normal red blood cell synthesis, which in turn can cause problems with oxygen supply. Megaloblastic anemia can be specifically brought on by a lack of vitamin B-12 or folate in the body. This disorder causes the development of abnormally big and immature red blood cells as well as a disruption in the process of DNA synthesis. Even if your vitamin B-12 concentrations are called to be within the normal range or are only slightly low, you still run the risk of developing tiredness and other issues associated with a B12 deficiency. This is an important fact to keep in mind.

White or yellowish complexion

Having skin that is too pale or too yellow may be another indicator of a B12 deficiency. Anemia caused by a shortage of B12 in the body can cause a similar pallor to that caused by iron deficiency anemia due to the absence of mature, healthy red blood cells. Jaundice is another potential side effect of B12 deficiency, in which the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow. The breakdown of red blood cells produces bilirubin, the pigment responsible for the color. When the body is unable to make adequate red blood cells, the result is jaundice. The normal pigmentation of the skin is due to the circulation of red blood cells just under the surface. If there aren’t enough of them, your skin may lose its color. Red blood cell formation is aided by vitamin B-12.

Pain in the head

Headaches are only one of the neurological symptoms that can arise from a B12 shortage or inadequacy. For both adults and children, headaches are a common indication of a B12 shortage. Recent research has linked chronic headache sufferers with low B12 levels. Blood levels of vitamin B-12 were shown to be considerably lower in those with migraines compared to those without migraine history in a 2019 study involving 140 persons. Those with the greatest B12 levels were also shown to have an 80% lower risk of migraines than those with the lowest B12 levels.  Vitamin B-12 medication may alleviate migraine sensations for some people, and scientists are still looking into this possibility.

Symptoms of depression

A lack of this nutrient can have an effect on your mental health, as vitamin B-12 is necessary for the normal operation of your central nervous system. To be more specific, there is a correlation between a lack of vitamin B-12 and an increased likelihood of getting depression. Insufficient amounts of vitamin B12 have been linked to increased concentrations of homocysteine, an amino acid that contains sulfur. A study conducted in 2020 with 132 children and adolescents, 89 of whom had depression and 43 of whom did not, indicated that the individuals who were depressed had lower levels of B12 and greater levels of homocysteine in comparison to those who did not have depression. Low or insufficient amounts of vitamin B12 have been linked to a variety of mental diseases, including psychosis and mood disorders, in addition to the symptoms of depression.

Digestive disorders

Inadequate levels of vitamin B-12 have been linked to a variety of gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, swelling, gas, and others. These problems can affect people of any age, including youngsters. Bear in mind, however, that a good many of these symptoms are not disease-specific and could be brought on by a variety of other things. For instance, diarrhea might be caused by a reaction to certain foods, adverse reactions to drugs, or infections.

Unable to concentrate and cognitive decline

People who are deficient in B12 or have low amounts of it may experience mental fogginess, have trouble concentrating, and find it difficult to complete tasks. This is because B12 deficiency has a damaging effect on the central nervous system. Because of the elevated risk of B12 insufficiency that comes with advancing age, older persons are particularly at risk for these adverse effects. A number of studies have found an association between low levels of B12 and a decline in mental function in older persons. The good news is that treatment with B12 has been shown in tests to alleviate mental impairment caused by insufficient levels of B12. For instance, a study conducted in 2020 administered B12 replacement medication to 202 participants who had mild cognitive impairment, minimal or sub-normal vitamin B-12 concentrations, and a rise in the levels of homocysteine for a period of three months.

Trouble chewing and swallowing, as well as tongue and mouth pain

A red, swollen, and aching tongue is known medically as glossitis. A lack of vitamin B-12 is a possible contributor. Glossitis, a painful swelling of the mouth’s soft tissue, can occur alongside stomatitis, an inflammatory condition marked by ulcers and redness in the mouth, in patients with this deficiency. Glossitis and stomachache are common in those with B12 deficiency-related anemia, but they can also arise independently of the anemia and serve as early warning signs of B12 deficiency. However, deficits in other nutrients including folate, riboflavin (B2), and niacin can also lead to glossitis (B3).

Clumsy sensations in the limbs

The medical word “paresthesia” describes a feeling that can be described as either a burning or a “pins and needles” feeling in certain parts of the body, such as the hands and feet. Paresthesia is a common symptom reported by both adults and children who are deficient in vitamin B-12. Unfortuitously, this symptom of B12 insufficiency coincides with symptoms connected to diabetic neuropathy. Metformin can decrease the amount of vitamin B-12 that is absorbed by the body, which puts diabetics who take the drug at an increased risk of having a B12 deficit. Therefore, patients who have diabetes may receive an incorrect diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy if they have a B12 deficit. As a consequence of this, many medical professionals advise that persons who take metformin on a daily basis get checked for vitamin B12 insufficiency.

The Bottom Line

Fatigue, migraine headaches, sadness, pale or yellow complexion, mental impairment, pain and swelling in the mouth and tongue, and a lack of appetite are only some of the signs of a B12 deficiency. Unfortunately, many of the signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency are non-specific, making it difficult to diagnose. You should see a doctor if you have any of the aforementioned symptoms so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Vitamin B-12 is essential for numerous processes in the body, one of which is the production of red blood cells. There are both physiological and psychological effects of a B-12 deficiency. Low levels of oxygen in the blood are the primary sign of vitamin B-12 insufficiency. Having enough oxygen in the body is important for numerous reasons. Just like most other vitamins and minerals, vitamin B-12 is best absorbed when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Following a healthy diet and other nutritional supplements may be helpful if a person is unable to acquire enough from their regular diet. Deficiency in vitamin B-12 is usually remediable by medical professionals. However, those who are chronically deficient may suffer permanent consequences including nerve damage. Early detection and management of vitamin B-12 insufficiency can improve a person’s prognosis. The majority of people acquire adequate vitamin B-12 from their diets. Doctors often suggest or prescribe B-12 tablets for patients who cannot absorb the vitamin naturally. A healthy dose of this vitamin can be determined by seeing a physician. Those who have absorption issues with vitamin B-12 may require vitamin B-12 injections to cure their shortage. A vitamin B-12 shortage can be avoided in a number of ways, and the optimal one will be recommended by a doctor after considering the patient’s diet and overall health.