If the level of vitamin B12 stays low for a long time, it can damage your nerve cells. If this happens, you may have:
- Numbness or tingling in your fingers and toes.
- A poor sense of balance.
- Dementia, a loss of mental abilities.
How is vitamin B12 deficiency anemia diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine you and ask questions about your past health and how you are feeling now. You will also have blood tests to check the number of red blood cells and to see if your body has enough vitamin B12.
The level of folic acid, another B vitamin, will be checked too. Some people whose vitamin B12 levels are too low also have low levels of folic acid. The two problems can cause similar symptoms.
A physical exam may show problems with reflexes or a positive Babinski reflex.
The following tests may be done:
- Reticulocyte count
- Schilling test (if pernicious anemia is suspected)
- Serum LDH
- Serum vitamin B12 level and serum folate levels
Vitamin B12 is important for metabolism. Metabolism within the body includes the processes of energy generation and use; including nutrition, digestion, absorption, elimination, respiration, circulation, and temperature regulation.
Vitamin B-12 and depression: Are they related?
What's the relationship between vitamin B-12 and depression?
from Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.
Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.
Low levels of a vitamin can result from eating a poor diet or not being able to absorb the vitamins you do consume. Older adults, vegetarians and people with digestive disorders such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease may have trouble getting enough B-12. Sometimes a vitamin B-12 deficiency occurs for unknown reasons. Your doctor may order a blood test to check levels of B-12 or other vitamins if a deficiency is suspected.
The best way to make sure you're getting enough B-12 and other vitamins is to eat a healthy diet that includes sources of essential nutrients. Vitamin B-12 is plentiful in animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs and milk. Fortified breakfast cereals also are a good source of B-12 and other B vitamins.
Taking a daily supplement that includes vitamin B-12 may help your body get the nutrients it needs, especially if you're older than 50 or you're a vegetarian. However, B-12 and other vitamin supplements can interact with some medications and cause other concerns, especially in high doses. Talk to your doctor before you take a vitamin supplement.
Keep in mind, the role of B vitamins in depression isn't clear. If you have a vitamin deficiency, taking a supplement may help. But no supplement can replace proven depression treatments such as antidepressants and psychological counseling.
A clinical trial called the Vitamins to Slow Alzheimer's Disease (VITAL) study is testing whether high doses of three common B vitamins - folic acid, B12, and B6 - can reduce homocysteine levels and slow the rate of cognitive decline in AD.