Anemia is a health condition in which the patient lacks sufficient red blood cells required to carry oxygen throughout the body. It has various types and causes. The anemia that occurs due to a deficiency of vitamins is known as vitamin deficiency anemia.
Vitamins B9, B12, and C are certain vitamins whose deficiency can directly reduce the levels of red blood cells in the human body. One must consume adequate quantities of food rich in these vitamins to avoid this disease.
About Vitamin Deficiency Anemia
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia can occur if you do not consume enough vitamin B12-rich foods, such as meat, eggs, and milk.
Vitamin C deficiency anemia can occur if you do not consume enough iron from plant-based or citrus foods. Besides, if you are a smoker, smoking can hamper your ability to absorb vitamin C from these food sources.
Finally, leafy green vegetables and fruits are the primary sources of vitamin B9 or folate , and their inadequacy in your diet can also result in vitamin deficiency anemia.
What are the Symptoms of Vitamin Deficiency Anemia?
It is established that vitamin deficiency anemia occurs when our body is unable to get or absorb the vitamins needed from our diet. However, there can be other causes too. For example, taking anti-seizure medications, drinking too much alcohol, smoking excessively, or suffering from small intestinal diseases or chronic diseases such as kidney disease or cancer can also increase your chances of developing this condition.
Some common symptoms of vitamin deficiency anemia are listed below
- Unsteady movements.
- Shortness of breath.
- Muscle weakness.
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Sudden weight loss.
- Mental ambiguity.
- Yellowish or pale skin color.
- Changes in personality.
- Tingling sensation in arms and feet.
When Should You See a Doctor?
You should see your doctor immediately if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. Vitamin deficiency anemia might not seem dangerous, but it can become so if left untreated.
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What are the Risk Factors and Complications?
Although vitamin deficiency anemia can pose a significant risk to everyone, it is especially dangerous to pregnant women. A lack of vitamin B9 in the mother’s diet can cause a deficiency in the developing fetus as well, which can create disorders in the baby’s spinal cord and brain, in addition to other birth defects. In such cases, the mother is also at the risk of experiencing pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage or premature birth.
You could also develop nervous system disorders such as mental confusion, tingling in your arm and feet, forgetfulness, and personality changes if your diet lacks vitamin B12.
Vitamin deficiency anemias are diagnosed by doctors through blood tests that check:
- The appearance and number of red blood cells. Those with anemia have less red blood cells than normal.
The red blood cells may appear large and underdeveloped in vitamin deficiency anemias related to lack of vitamin B-12 and folate. In advanced deficiencies, the numbers of platelets and white blood cells may also decrease and look abnormal under the microscope.
- The amount of vitamin B-12, folate and vitamin C in your blood: Vitamin B-12 and folate levels are measured at the same time as these deficiencies may cause similar signs and symptoms.
Additional tests for B-12 deficiency
- Antibodies test: You may be advised a blood test to check for antibodies to intrinsic factor. The presence of antibodies indicates pernicious anemia.
- Methylmalonic acid test: You may also be adivised a blood test to cheack and determine the presence of a substance known as methylmalonic acid. The level of methylmalonic acid is higher in those with vitamin B-12 deficiency.
How Can We Prevent Vitamin Deficiency Anemia?
This type of anemia is preventable. However, you must follow certain healthy steps. These are:
- Plan a healthy diet. Choose a diet plan loaded with leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, , nuts, whole grains , eggs, meat, cheese, yogurt, milk, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, etc. These food items contain a good amount of vitamins B12, B9, and C.
- Consider multivitamin supplements.
- Avoid drinking alcohol, and if you absolutely must drink, consume it in moderation. Women of any age can have 1 glass a day, while men under 65 can drink 2 glasses a day.
- Finally, consider quitting smoking as it can obstruct your body’s ability to absorb vitamins from natural food sources.
Are There any Remedies Available?
There are no specific remedies available to treat vitamin deficiency anemia other than following a healthy diet plan and taking multivitamin supplements on your doctor’s advice. However, when you visit your doctor, you can still list out all the medications you currently take, explain your symptoms, and record key information, such as any recent life changes or stress events. This will make it easier for your doctor to diagnose your illness.
Treatment Options for Vitamin Deficiency Anemia
Taking folic acid or vitamin B9 supplements orally is prescribed in most cases of vitamin B9 deficiency anemia. Apart from the vitamin supplements, a healthy diet is also recommended as the treatment option for vitamin B9 deficiency.
Taking vitamin B12 supplements orally and close monitoring and surveillance of your condition by your doctor is usually prescribed in case of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. Vitamin B12 injections are given in extreme cases. Initially, the injection shots are given every day, but gradually, they are given once a month only. If the condition is not very severe, B12 supplements in the form of nasal sprays or pills are given.
For vitamin C deficiency anemia, vitamin C tablets are generally recommended as treatment options. In addition, you can increase the consumption of foods and beverages that contain good amounts of vitamin C if the doctor recommends it.
While it is a common disease and is not considered life-threatening, you must remember that it can and will pose major threats to your health if it remains untreated. Problems arising out of vitamin deficiency anemia can be treated by consulting a doctor. This type of anemia can be prevented by following healthy practices, such as eating nutrient-rich food and avoiding smoking and alcohol.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How common is pernicious anemia?
Ans: It is a rare anemic condition but quite common in older adults. More than 50% of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia in older adults is rooted in pernicious anemia, which is thought mostly to be caused by an autoimmune process that makes an individual unable to produce a substance called intrinsic factor in the stomach.
How do you develop megaloblastic anemia?
Ans: The absence of vitamins B9 and B12 in your body can cause megaloblastic anemia. In this condition, your bone marrow produces immature but abnormally large red blood cells.
Can vitamin deficiency anemia be hereditary?
Ans: Yes, it can be, and in fact, pernicious anemia is genetic in most cases. It tends to run in families for several generations.