Vitamins are nutrients the body needs in order to work properly and stay healthy. Most people get all the vitamins they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet, according to the NHS, but if you don’t get enough of a particular vitamin you could become deficient in it. Sometimes underlying medical conditions can also lead to vitamin deficiencies, for example if you have an autoimmune condition that prevents the body from absorbing certain vitamins. One of the more common vitamin deficiencies is a deficiency in vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is responsible for the production of red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy.
Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, but are unable to do so properly if there are too few of them or if they are abnormally formed.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause red blood cells to become abnormally large, which can disrupt their ability to carry oxygen.
Anaemia is the general term for having too few red blood cells, or red blood cells which are abnormally formed.
Vitamin deficiencies can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which can be extremely subtle and easily be overlooked.
One symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is skin that has pale, yellow tinge to it. Pale skin is also a symptom of anaemia in general.
If you notice your skin is looking paler than normal, or has a yellow tinge, it may not necessarily mean you are anaemic or have a B12 deficiency, but you may want to see a GP in case, especially if you have other symptoms.
Other symptoms of B12 deficiency include extreme tiredness, a lack of energy, pins and needles, muscle weakness, a sore and red tongue, and mouth ulcers.
It can also cause breathlessness, feeling faint, headaches, heart palpitations, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Vitamin B12 deficiency may also lead to disturbed vision and psychological problems such as depression and confusion or problems with memory, understanding and judgement.
“See your GP if you think you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency. This condition can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” said the NHS.
“It’s important for vitamin B12 deficiency to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible because, although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible.”
Complications associated with vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with the nervous system, temporary infertility, heart conditions and pregnancy complications.
Complications are uncommon, but can happen in people who have been deficient in B12 for some time.
Skin that has turned yellow can also signify jaundice. Jaundice can be a sign of a serious medical condition like liver disease.
Jaundice also causes the whites of the eyes to turn yellow, so if you experience yellow skin and eyes, see a GP urgently.
Jaundice may also cause itchy skin, darker pee and paler poo than usual.