Vitamin B12 deficiency is a low level of vitamin B12 in the body. This vitamin is found in foods like seafood, dairy, and eggs. The body uses it to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out other functions.
Not getting enough of this vitamin can lead to
anemia. This is a low level of red blood cells. It can also lead to problems with the nervous system.
This problem is more common in older adults. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Being on a vegan or vegetarian diet
Having conditions or procedures that make it hard for the body to absorb vitamin B12, such as:
Surgery to remove part or all of the stomach
Digestive tract disorders or infections
Taking medicine that makes it hard for the body to absorb vitamin B12, such as metformin and proton pump inhibitors
Problems vary from person to person. They may also get worse over time. Common ones are:
A feeling of pins and needles in the feet or hands
A stinging feeling on the tongue or a smooth, red tongue
Pale skin color
Changes in the way things taste
Balance problems, especially when in the dark
Lightheadedness when changing to standing position
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. You may also be asked about your diet.
Your level of vitamin B12 will be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
More tests may be done to look for a cause.
Any underlying causes may be treated.
The goal of treatment is to increase vitamin B12 levels. This can be done with vitamin B12 replacement therapy.
The risk of this problem may be lowered by eating foods that contain vitamin B12, such as seafood, dairy, and eggs. Supplements may need to be taken by people who are at risk for deficiency, such as vegetarians.
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.