Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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A solid B12 supply is crucial to having a well-oiled nervous system, as well as the creation of new blood cells. An untreated deficiency can wreak havoc on the body, eventually causing severe, irreversible damage. Weakness, pale pallor, and light-headedness are all early symptoms. These can progress to bleeding and bruising issues, as well as stomach and intestinal difficulties. Without vitamin B12, the sheaths around nerves also become damage-prone; in severe cases, neurological symptoms will eventually appear, including poor memory, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and even personality changes. Vision loss is a lesser-known symptom caused by a lack of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 can help maintain and promote healthy eyesight.
The vitamin is an essential vitamin for neurological function.
Vitamin B12 deficiency optic neuropathy is a rare complication of this deficiency that results in progressive, bilateral, painless vision loss that is often associated with reduced colour vision and central or cecocentral scotomas.
In fact, one study involving 5,000 women over the age of 40 who had sufficient vitamin B12 intake were linked to a 34 to 41 percent lowered risk of macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an increasing problem for older individuals.
The disease results from either a build-up of deposits at the back of the eye or the growth of abnormal blood vessels.
In both cases, sufferers lose significant portions of the central vision.
Unfortunately, diagnosing a case of AMD isn’t easy, given how subtly the symptoms and condition advances.
While there’s no cure for AMD, there does appear to be a dietary means of slowing it down.
Foods which are rich in vitamin B12, such as broccoli, have proven to help slow the progression of AMD.
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In a study published in Optometric Education, one case of a patient suffering from vision loss was associated with a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The 63-year-old Caucasian male presented to the eye clinic for a second opinion regarding cataract surgery in February 2011 following a gradual decline in his vision over the previous two months.
He received new glasses but continued to experience decreased visual acuity.
He was also referred to a private ophthalmologist for cataract surgery, but the procedure was not performed as it was believed that the lenticular changes were not the primary etiology of his visual loss.
An in-depth chart review revealed that the patient had been diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency in October 2010 as a result of routine bloodwork.
At that time, he was prescribed vitamin B12 1,000mcg daily and folic acid 1mg daily.
The patient was diagnosed with bilateral optic neuropathy due to vitamin B12 deficiency.
Optic neuropathy is another lesser-known symptom of a B12 deficiency.
The optic nerve is responsible for carrying signals from the eyes to the brain and, without it, a person who may be otherwise healthy could experience vision loss.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are known to render nerves including the optic nerve and make them more brittle.
This can then cause damage to the optic nerve resulting in decreased central vision.
Fortunately, with the right of supplementation, vision loss sufferers may be able to reverse the effects of this condition.
How is B12 deficiency treated?
The treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
“If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals,” explains the NHS.
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