A vitamin B12 deficiency may be going on for a while, with symptoms brushed aside until you begin to notice it's affecting your everyday life. This is what could happen...
With a vitamin B12 deficiency, which isn't uncommon for those aged over 50, one may start to feel tired and lethargic – easy symptoms to dismiss.
However, if the deficiency is left untreated, irreversible problems involving the nerves and brain can develop.
For instance, walking difficulties and balance problems – due to a vitamin B12 deficiency – could end up affecting your day-to-day life.
Prolonged deficiency in the vitamin can also lead to memory loss, irritability, depression and, in severe cases, dementia.
What causes a vitamin B12 deficiency?
Certain stomach conditions can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency. For example, atrophic gastritis.
Medical News Today explained that atrophic gastritis occurs when the stomach lining is inflamed for an extended period of time.
The chronic inflammation results in damage to the stomach lining, making it difficulty for the body to absorb nutrients from food.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products, such as haddock, beef, chicken and yoghurt.
When a person had autoimmune atrophic gastritis, the body mistakenly attacks healthy stomach cells, including a protein called intrinsic factor.
Intrinsic factor is responsible for helping the body absorb vitamin B12 by binding with the vitamin.
However, when the stomach cells are attacked, intrinsic factor may not be created, meaning it can't bind to vitamin B12, resulting in the nutrient being excreted from the body.DON'T MISSDementia warning - one drink you should avoid if you want to prevent the condition [TIPS]Heart attack: The best diet to follow to avoid the deadly condition - what foods to eat [INSIGHT]Sue Nicholls health: Coronation star's ‘deadly form of cancer' spotted by TV viewer [CELEB]
The main culprit behind atrophic gastritis is a bacterial infection by Helicobacter pylori.
There are a few ways somebody can come in contact with Helicobacter pylori, which include drinking contaminated water, eating foods prepared and/or grown in contaminated water.
Somebody can also catch the bacterial infection from having direct contact with saliva, vomit, or faeces, of a person who already has it.
Some people may experience a vitamin B12 deficiency is they have intestinal conditions, such as Crohn's disease.
Global health company Ada defined Crohn's disease as a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Current thought stipulates that Crohn's is an "overactive immune response which results in inflammation within the digestive system".
Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can result in difficulties absorbing nutrients from food.
People with Crohn's disease are commonly found to be deficient in iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Treatment for a vitamin B12 deficiency
A simple blood test done at the GP's clinic can determine whether or not somebody is deficient in vitamin B12.
The doctor will also want to discuss symptoms and look at your medical history to help form a diagnosis.
Typically, B12 injections or prescribed oral supplements will be prescribed to treat the nutrient deficiency.
Treatment may be for a few weeks, months, or lifelong, depending on the underlying reason behind the vitamin B12 deficiency.