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Vitamin Deficiency Anemia – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Vitamins and minerals are crucial for the balance of our bodies. If you have a lower than a particular threshold of vitamins or minerals in your body, it could lead to vitamin deficiency anemia.

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.  

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

There are specific vitamins that cause anemia when their levels in the body drop. These include:

  • Vitamin C – 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.
  • Vitamin B-12 – Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia can occur if you do not consume enough vitamin B12-rich foods, such as meat, eggs, and milk. 
  • Folate – 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.

Low quantities of other vitamins can cause other illnesses but do not cause anemia. Like other types of anemia, vitamin deficient anemia can cause issues with the proper functioning of the body.

What are the symptoms of vitamin deficient anemia?

The primary symptoms of vitamin deficient anemia are very similar to iron-deficiency anemia and other vitamin deficiency diseases. The common symptoms of both conditions include:

The tricky aspect of vitamin deficiency diseases, including vitamin deficiency anemia is that they develop slowly over time and the symptoms, while mild at first, can be extremely aggressive as vitamin levels drop more.

What are the types of vitamin deficient anemia?

Depending on the particular vitamin deficiency, the type of anemia can vary. There are three major types of vitamin deficient anemia. These are:

  • Folate deficiency anemia
  • Vitamin-C deficient anemia
  • Vitamin B-12 deficient anemia

What causes vitamin deficiency anemia?

Vitamin deficiency diseases like anemia can be caused by numerous factors that lower the body’s vitamin and mineral levels. These include:

The cause of vitamin deficiency diseases can be specific to your case. It is crucial to be examined and diagnosed by a doctor in case of a vitamin deficiency.

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.

Diagnosis

Vitamin deficiency anemias are diagnosed by doctors through blood tests that check:

  1. 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.

  1. 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 advised a blood test to check 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.

Are there any risk factors for vitamin deficient anemia?

Vitamin deficiency diseases like anemia can have numerous effects on your health. There are a few factors that can increase the risk of developing vitamin deficiency diseases. These include:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Drug abuse
  • Pregnancy
  • Prescription medication
  • Intestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease
  • Bad eating habits
  • Vegetarian and vegan diets (they can be unbalanced and should be fortified with supplements)
  • Overcooked food
  • Underlying medical conditions like diabetes

Are there any complications of vitamin deficient anemia?

The complications of vitamin deficiency diseases like vitamin deficient anemia can be wide-reaching. These include:

How Can We Prevent Vitamin Deficiency Anemia?

This type of anemia is preventable. However, you must follow certain healthy steps. These are: 

  1. 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. 
  2. Consider multivitamin supplements. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 

Conclusion

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. 

Does vitamin B12 deficient anemia cause brain abnormalities?

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for the functioning of your nervous system and also acts as a balancing tool for brain chemicals. The lack of B12 can impair the functions of both the nervous system and the brain.

Is a vitamin C deficiency common?

Yes. In fact, apart from Vitamin D deficiencies, a deficiency of Vitamin C is the most common type of vitamin deficiency in the world. It is an extremely common occurrence that can easily be treated with supplements or an increased intake of citrus fruits.

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