My last post discussed how intrinsic factor affects B12 absorption. This was an important discussion because many people believe they are getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet if they have not been diagnosed with pernicious anemia. The truth is that unless they have developed anemia, most people haven’t even thought about B12.
You need to know that problems associated with a B12 deficiency may occur long before a diagnosable case of pernicious anemia occurs. Pernicious anemia does not just affect the blood. The gastrointestinal tract and the peripheral and central nervous systems are affected as well. The first indications of anemia are a sore tongue and numbness and/or tingling or burning sensation in the hands or feet. Sufferers tend to be pale and white-lipped. A variety of abdominal difficulties include: gas, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, pain, and poor appetite.
Other signs include ringing in the ears, spots before the eyes, chronic fatigue, drowsiness, and irritability. Vital organs become starved for oxygen because not enough red blood cells are being formed. The liver and spleen often become enlarged, and neurological damage increases as the disease progresses. Severe anemia may lead to heart failure.
Next time, we will discuss psychiatric abnormalities associated with B12 deficiency.