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Although a vitamin B12 deficiency is easily treatable, it can cause permanent nerve damage if left untreated. Possible signs of a deficiency include constipation, loss of appetite, fatigue, and problems with balance. Certain people are at an increased risk for developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, including those who are strict vegetarians, have cancer, or have liver or kidney disease.

What Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency is fairly common, at least compared to many other vitamin deficiencies. Some people are at a much higher risk for a deficiency, compared to others. Although a vitamin B12 deficiency is easily treatable, it can cause permanent damage if left untreated.

Possible Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency may include:
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Numbness or tingling (or other strange sensations) in the hands or feet
  • Problems with balance
  • Depression
  • Confusion or dementia
  • Poor memory
  • Soreness of the mouth or tongue
  • Failure to thrive and delayed development (in infants).
The nerve damage caused by this deficiency may be permanent, even after it is corrected. Folic acid can "mask" a vitamin B12 deficiency, making it more difficult to detect and diagnose. Although folic acid can correct anemia due to a vitamin B12 deficiency, it does not prevent the nerve damage that a deficiency can cause.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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