Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia is a condition in which your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells, due to a lack (deficiency) of vitamin B12. This vitamin is needed to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Without enough red blood cells, your tissues and organs don’t get enough oxygen. Without enough oxygen, your body can’t work as well.
Folic acid, also called folate, is another B vitamin. Anemias caused by a lack of vitamin B12 or a lack of folate are 2 types of megaloblastic anemia. With these types of anemia, the red blood cells don’t develop normally. They are very large. And they are shaped like an oval, not round like healthy red blood cells. This causes the bone marrow to make fewer red blood cells. In some cases the red blood cells die sooner than normal.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia is more common in people whose families come from northern Europe. It is caused by one of the following:
The inability to make intrinsic factor may be caused by several things, such as:
Other types of megaloblastic anemia may be linked with type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, and a family history of the disease.
Risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency anemia include:
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of megaloblastic anemia may look like other blood conditions or health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
This type of anemia is usually found during a medical exam through a routine blood test. Your healthcare provider will take your medical history and give you a physical exam.
Your provider may give you additional blood tests. You may also have other evaluation procedures, such as a bone marrow biopsy.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia and folate deficiency anemia often occur together and can be hard to tell apart. Treatment may include vitamin B12 shots (injections) and folic acid pills.
Foods that are rich in folic acid include the following:
Foods that are rich in both folic acid and vitamin B12 include the following:
Taking folic acid by mouth is more effective than eating foods rich in folic acid. Vitamin B12 is not as well absorbed by mouth as per injection.
Depending on the cause of your vitamin B12 deficiency, you may need to take vitamin B12 supplements for the rest of your life. These may be pills or shots. This may seem difficult. But it will let you live a normal life without symptoms.
If your deficiency is due to a restrictive diet, you may want to work with a nutritionist. He or she can help ensure that you get enough vitamin B12 and other vitamins. Tell your healthcare provider about any symptoms and follow your treatment plan.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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