Vitamin B12 deficiency warning: A worrying condition that can develop if you lack B12

Vitamin B12 deficiencies are far more common than people realise and lacking in the vitamin could create worrying conditions and side effects in the body. Hematologic manifestations are one of the symptoms of a severe deficiency which creates a condition known as neutropenia. What is neutropenia?

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Cancer Therapy Advisor explained vitamin B12 is obtained exclusively from dietary intake of animal products and absorption is dependent upon an acidic gastric environment.

It continued: “Vitamin B12 deficiency is most often a result of reduced absorption, not intake, of dietary vitamin B12.

“Dietary deficiency is isolated to strict vegans or malnutrition with a true deficiency usually taking years to develop.

“Vitamin B12 deficiencies can cause hematologic manifestations which include megaloblastic anaemia, bleeding diathesis and opportunistic infections known as neutropenia which are present in more severe cases.”

What is neutropenia?

For a person suffering with a B12 deficiency and neutropenia it means they have a usually low number of cells known as neutrophils.

Neutrophils are cells in the immune system which attack bacteria and other organisms which invade the body.

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell which a person’s bone marrow creates.

They then travel into the bloodstream and move to areas of infection where they ingest and then neutralise the offending bacteria.

What are the symptoms of neutropenia?

In some cases, a person will only know they have neutropenia when they have a blood test for an unrelated reason.

It is most commonly seen as a result of chemotherapy to treat cancer.

But some people may have other symptoms from infection or the underlying problem causing the neutropenia.

Infections can occur as a complication of neutropenia and occur most often in the mucous membranes, such as the inside of the mouth and skin.

These infections can appear as ulcers, abscesses, rashes and wounds which take a long time to heal.

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Neutropenia happens due to the neutrophils being used up or being destroyed faster than they are produced, or the bone marrow does not make enough neutrophils in the first place.

The Cleveland Clinic explained: “There are many factors that fall into these two categories.

“Neutropenia can be caused by:

  • Infections, including hepatitis, tuberculosis, sepsis, or Lyme disease
  • Medications, including chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is one of the most common causes of neutropenia
  • Cancer and other blood and/or bone marrow disorders
  • Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, folate, or copper
  • Autoimmune disease, including Crohn’s disease, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.”

Most people can’t get enough vitamin B12 from dietary sources.

For those who are unable to, a GP may prescribe or recommend you take B12 supplements.

Most multivitamins contain vitamin B12 and can get supplements in the form of oral tables, sublingual tablets which dissolve under the tongue or injections.

People who have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 may need shots of the vitamin to treat their deficiency.

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