B12 deficiency: The sign when waking up in the morning – seen in almost 90% of cases

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 performs many important roles in the body. To give you a flavour, it helps produce red blood cells, supports the nervous system and fights fatigue. Low B12 levels undermine these processes, and the latter can be particularly cute.

Fatigue is characterised as a persistent tiredness that does not abate with rest.

It may become more pronounced in the morning, when you awake from a good night’s sleep to find you’re still tired.

Fatigue is one of the main signs of B12 and a study hints at its prevalence.

In a survey with a response rate of approximately one thousand patients in England, published in the British Journal of Nursing, patients with a B12 deficiency diagnosis were found to have a large variation of symptoms.

However, one symptom was found to be more common than all others: fatigue.

According to the survey data, 96 percent of respondents reported “unusual fatigue”.

What’s more, 86 percent of respondents reported “waking up tired”, which also suggests fatigue.

Other common signs included:

  • Glossitis (34 percent)
  • Loss of hair, mouth ulcers or blurred vision (30 percent).

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It’s important to not ignore the symptoms of B12 deficiency – doing so can have disastrous consequences.

Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.

The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.

According to the NHS, a diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency can often be made by a GP based on your symptoms and the results of blood tests.

These tests check:

  • Whether you have a lower level of haemoglobin (a substance that transports oxygen) than normal
  • Whether your red blood cells are larger than normal
  • The level of vitamin B12 in your blood.

How to top up vitamin B12

According to Holland and Barrett, the richest sources of B12 are animal-based, including:

  • Meat and liver
  • Fish
  • Clams
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Eggs.

As the health body explains, there are plant-based sources of vitamin B12 too, which include yeast extract, fortified plant milks and fortified breakfast cereals.

“The synthetic (man-made) version of B12 is called cyanocobalamin, which you may see in supplements.”

A prolonged deficiency – especially one caused by an underlying condition – may require injections of vitamin B12.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin.

“At first, you’ll have these injections every other day for two weeks or until your symptoms have started improving,” explains the NHS.

The health body adds: “After this initial period, your treatment will depend on whether the cause of your vitamin B12 deficiency is related to your diet or whether the deficiency is causing any neurological problems, such as problems with thinking, memory and behaviour.”

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