There are complications which come with the diagnosis though. A lot of times, and it may not be the doctor’s fault, the deficiency may not be caught or caught on time. This is because the symptoms are shared by so many other diseases that it’s easy to attribute the deficiency of B12 to something else.
It’s also tricky because it does not happen at once. It creeps slowly. It may take years for you to eventually realize that you have a deficiency. And all these time, you may attribute your symptoms to just life, stress and general fatigue.
So how would you start to know that you may have a deficiency of B12? Here are some symptoms that will tell you:
- The first thing would be anaemia. Even by itself, it’s a disease that’s slow to manifest. It is basically a shortage of the red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. And these of course are critical as oxygen is life. They start to deplete slowly and eventually, you have no energy. Even breathing is a labour. Your palms and the insides of your eyelids are pale. You may even start to experience fainting spells.
- You will feel sudden itchiness of the tongue. It starts then stops as suddenly as it started. All this is related to the lack of oxygen – transportation of it is cut off and suddenly resumed thus the tingling or itchy feeling.
- You’ll notice that you start to forget things. This one is a hard one to use for diagnosis because it’s usually attributed to too much to do and the stresses of life. What should mark it as a symptom for you is that it gets worse and worse.
- You lose your appetite. Again, this is a symptom that comes with many other illnesses so you may not attribute it to a deficiency of B12.
- You’ll get alternating diarrhoea and constipation. The problem again with these two is that many times you’ll think it’s your diet or your lifestyle and not necessarily a deficiency.
- Your hands and feet start to tingle suddenly – that pins and needles feeling only its much more pronounced and does not come as a result of awkward posture. The tingling will stop as suddenly as it started when the area gets enough oxygen once again.
- You’ll notice that you have permanently cold hands and feet. Some people are born naturally this way, but if you are not and notice that you are developing them, it should be a pointer to have yourself checked.
- Your heart is now struggling to feed oxygen to your body because all vital bodily functions need to be kept going. You will feel palpitations of the heart as it fights.
- As this is happening, you will be struggling to breath and may have chest pains. You’ll get more and more out of breath and the chest pains will get worse.
- If you are woman, you’ll notice a big change in your menstrual pattern. It will become unpredictable and when it does happen it’s either too heavy or too light.
There are many more symptoms – as the deficiency gets worse, it may even reach your nervous system and eventually cause worse problems.
- The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham, Cheshire, England WA14 4Q
- An Essential Part of a Healthy Plant Based Diet
- Dietary Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12