Vitamin B12 helps in red blood cell formation, production of DNA, and function of the nervous system.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur when the body needs more vitamin B12 than it receives from the diet. Alternatively, the condition may occur when the body is unable to use the vitamin B12 from the diet. A shortage of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia. Anemia occurs when levels of red blood cells are abnormally low and there is insufficient delivery of oxygen by red blood cells from the lungs to the cells of the body.
There are many causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as:
The following factors increase your chance of developing vitamin B12 deficiency:
The symptoms of pernicious anemia can vary from person-to-person. Symptoms may change or worsen over time.
Symptoms can include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include the following:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
The doctor may advise injections of vitamin B12 into a muscle. Injections of vitamin B12 may be given frequently at first. When blood tests show improvement, the injections may be given on a monthly basis.
This type of medication may be needed in cases where bacterial overgrowth in the intestines exists. The bacteria compete with the body to absorb the vitamin B12 in the intestines.
To help reduce your chances of developing a deficiency of vitamin B12, take the following steps:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Pernicious anemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 9, 2013. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Vitamin B12. American Association of Clinical Chemistry website. Available at: http://www.labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/vitamin_b12/glance.html. Updated May 27, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Vitamin B12. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 5, 2013. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Vitamin B12 deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 23, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.