This Morning: Guest reveals symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
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Pernicious anaemia can occur due to a weakened stomach lining (atrophic gastritis) or an acquired autoimmune condition. Who is at most risk? People of Scandinavian or Northern European descent are more likely to develop pernicious anaemia, said Medline Plus. Certain health condition can also raise a person’s risk, such as an underactive thyroid, type 1 diabetes, or celiac disease.
When pernicious anaemia is acquired by an autoimmune condition, the immune system attacks healthy stomach cells.
The stomach cells are responsible for creating a protein called intrinsic factor.
This protein binds with vitamin B12 – found in eggs, beef, and yoghurt – in the gut.
When intrinsic factor binds to vitamin B12, the nutrient is able to be reabsorbed into the body while digestion takes place.
However, if no intrinsic factor is available, then vitamin B12 is lost via the bowels.
Why does pernicious anaemia occur in the first place?
The National Organisation for Rare Disorders (NORD) said the immune system starts attacking healthy stomach cells for “unknown reasons”.
There is, however, believed to be a genetic link as the condition seems to run in families.
Why vitamin B12 matters
A lack of vitamin B12 leads to deformed red blood cells; ones that are ineffective at transporting oxygen around the body.
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After a while, the body starts to show signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
For instance, Harvard Medical School pointed out that a lack of vitamin B12 can lead to numbness or tingling in the legs.
Another warning sign is when a person begins to experience walking difficulties, such as staggering or struggling to balance.
Other signs of pernicious anaemia might include fatigue, weakness, cognitive difficulties, memory loss, and/or an inflamed tongue.
These symptoms begin to appear gradually, intensifying over time.
A blood test can confirm whether or not a vitamin B12 deficiency is present.
“If left untreated, the deficiency can cause severe neurological problems and blood diseases,” Harvard Medical School warned.
Treatment may involve weekly shots of vitamin B12 or high-dose vitamin B12 supplements taken daily.
If you’re concerned that you might have the condition, you can request a blood test from your doctor.
Make sure to communicate that you want your vitamin B12 levels measured.
Should the results come back that you are indeed lacking vitamin B12, your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you.
Be mindful that the condition might need treatment for the rest of your life.
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