Reasons To Have A Vitamin B-12 Test

Being unaware of a vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause serious complications. If any risk factors are present, immediate diagnostic testing is indicated.

Being unaware of a vitamin B-12 deficiency (Pernicious Anemia) can cause serious complications. At high risk for a B-12 deficiency are those who are over 60, whether symptoms are present or not since B-12 absorption has usually ceased at this age. In addition, older people should have B-12 tests since B-12 deficiency has often been confused with senility. In addition, researchers have found a link between B-12 deficiency and Alzheimer's Disease.

Problems with malabsorption of this nutrient can be caused by gastrointestinal problems or excessive alcohol consumption. Those who have had gastrointestinal surgery and radiation may have problems absorbing vitamin B-12. Also at risk are those who are strict vegetarians and those who have eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa. Severe cases can result in lowered immunity to infection, congestive heart failure, impaired vision and male impotence. In rare cases the condition can be fatal.

Symptoms for vitamin B-12 deficiency include:

---shortness of breath

---sore tongue

---jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes)

---pale lips, tongue and gums

---appetite loss and weight loss

---difficulty with balance


---arm and leg weakness

Vitamin B-12 testing usually consists of two tests. The first is a serum B-12 blood test to measure the amount of B-12 in the blood. The second is a test to rule out any folic acid deficiency, which can mimic the symptoms of B-12 deficiency. If found to be vitamin B-12 deficient, monthly injections can sometimes control or even reverse the condition.

Foods high in vitamin B-12 may also be added to the diet to supplement the stores of B-12. Soy foods such as tofu and tempeh are very high in vitamin B-12. Many cereals and pasta products are fortified with vitamin B-12 although vegetarians may need to take B-12 supplements to get the required amounts. Other food sources are meat, shellfish, clams, crab and liver. Liver intake should be limited, however, because of its high cholesterol content.

Vitamin B-12 gels, administered by squeezing into the nose, are absorbed through the nasal membranes but are not widely recommended. The monthly injections are proven effective and are the most accepted and prescribed treatment.

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