Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to many health problems, including pregnancy complications and nervous system disorders, which is why spotting symptoms of the condition is important. A deficiency can occur when a lack of B12 causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly.
Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body using a substance known as haemoglobin.
With fewer red blood cells or abnormally low amounts of haemoglobin, different areas of the body can be negatively impacted.
One of these is the ears – according to Patient.info, ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus, can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
As well as ringing in the ears, tinnitus can sound like buzzing, whooshing, humming, hissing, throbbing, music or singing.
But it’s important to note tinnitus isn’t always a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
The NHS explains: “It’s not usually a sign of any serious conditions and generally improves over time.”
Tinnitus can also be linked to:
- Some form of hearing loss
- Meniere’s disease
- Thyroid disorders or multiple sclerosis
- Anxiety or depression
- Taking certain medication
What causes vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by conditions, such as pernicious anaemia, or diet.
The NHS explains: “Pernicious anaemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK.
“Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune condition that affects your stomach.
“An autoimmune condition means your immune system, the body’s natural defence system that protects against illness and infection, attacks your body’s healthy cells.
“Vitamin B12 is combined with a protein called intrinsic factor in your stomach. This mix of vitamin B12 and intrinsic factor is then absorbed into the body in part of the gut called the distal ileum.
“Pernicious anaemia causes your immune system to attack the cells in your stomach that produce the intrinsic factor, which means your body is unable to absorb vitamin B12.”
Some people may develop vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of not getting enough B12 from their diet.
The health body continues: “A diet that includes meat, fish and dairy products usually provides enough vitamin B12, but people who do not regularly eat these foods, such as those following a vegan diet or who have a generally very poor diet, can become deficient.”
Vitamin B12 deficiency treatment
Treatment for the condition will depend on what’s causing the condition, but it’s usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
If the condition is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals.
You may be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency if you lack the following foods in your diet:
- Salmon and cod
- Milk and other dairy products
If you’re vegetarian or vegan and looking for alternatives to these, there are foods that contain vitamin B12 such as yeast extract and some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products.
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