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Vitamin Deficiency Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Vitamin Deficiency Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

The body is made up of complex organ systems that all play essential functions so that we can carry out our day-to-day activities. Our brain allows us to feel emotions, our lungs enable us to breathe, and our eyes help us see. However, all of these organs cannot function properly without red blood cells. And when you have problems producing enough red blood cells, you may have a condition called vitamin deficiency anemia.

Red blood cells are found in the bloodstream and transport oxygen throughout the body while collecting carbon dioxide produced as waste. However, some people will have problems with the red blood cells in their body. This condition is called anemia.

Vitamin deficiency anemia is a type of anemia that results from a lack of vitamins needed to produce enough red blood cells in the body. Understanding why this condition happens together with its signs and symptoms can help you understand how you can prevent it.

What Is Vitamin Deficiency Anemia?

The term “anemia” generally refers to when a person doesn’t have enough hemoglobin or healthy red blood cells. There are different types of anemia that result from various causes such as a lack of iron (iron deficiency anemia), sickle or crescent-shaped red blood cells (sickle cell anemia), red blood cells that easily break down (hemolytic anemia), and others.

Vitamin deficiency anemia results from a lack of the following vitamins:

Vitamin C helps absorb iron, and thus it is associated with iron deficiency anemia. On the other hand, vitamin B12 and folate are related to the formation and production of red blood cells.

Low Levels of Iron? You May Be at Risk of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Causes depend on which vitamin is lacking in the body. You may develop this condition if your diet doesn’t have enough of the vitamins needed for red blood cell production, or if your body is unable to absorb the vitamins it needs.

Causes

Anemia caused by a lack of vitamin B12 or folate are usually regarded as megaloblastic anemia, which is a type of vitamin deficiency anemia.

Megaloblastic anemia is characterized by the production of abnormally large blood cells which are not fully developed, resulting in fewer healthy blood cells. This condition also results in red blood cells becoming oval-shaped.

Causes include the following:

1. Folate or Vitamin B9 Deficiency Anemia:

Folate or vitamin B9 is a naturally occurring mineral that plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells. It can be found in some types of fruits and vegetables, and fortified food like cereals or pasta. A folate deficiency anemia can result from:

  • A diet without enough folate or vitamin B9
  • Malabsorption syndrome, which is when the small intestine cannot absorb enough vitamins and nutrients (celiac disease)
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • Surgical removal of the small intestines

2. Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia:

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is present in food or in the form of a supplement. A lack of Vitamin B12 can result in anemia, as your body needs this vitamin for the production of red blood cells. Other causes of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia also include:

  • Lack of a substance called “intrinsic factor” which assists the body in absorbing vitamin B12
  • Recent surgery that affected the small intestine
  • Celiac or Crohn’s disease which are conditions that interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients
  • Having a tapeworm

3. Vitamin C Deficiency Anemia

This vitamin is essential in the circulation of blood, as it helps the body absorb iron better. But if you don’t eat or drink enough food or beverages with vitamin C, or if you smoke, you may develop this condition.

Signs and Indicators

Usually, people with vitamin deficiency anemia don’t notice that they have this condition because of the mild symptoms. Signs and symptoms may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Yellowed or pale skin
  • Feeling cold in the extremities
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Forgetfulness or difficulty focusing or remembering things
  • Weight loss

Who Is at Risk of Vitamin Deficiency Anemia?

Certain conditions can increase a person’s risk of acquiring this condition. These are the following:

  1. Diet: If your diet doesn’t have enough vegetables, fruits, or meat then you might be at risk of vitamin deficiency anemia. If you’re a vegetarian, you might also be at risk considering the lack of meat and dairy in your diet.
  2. Pregnancy: A pregnant woman’s demand for folate increases for the proper development of her baby. Not getting enough folate, or not taking a supplement may put a pregnant woman at risk.
  3. Medical conditions: Illnesses affecting the functions of the small intestine can cause problems in the absorption of vitamins.
  4. Alcohol: Excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages can interfere with the body’s absorption of vitamins.

Complications

If you suspect that you have vitamin deficiency anemia, it’s best to consult a medical practitioner as soon as possible. This condition can have serious complications like:

  • Premature birth (for pregnant women)
  • Neurological problems such as tingling in the hands or feet, confusion, and difficulty balancing
  • Iron deficiency anemia (correlated with vitamin C deficiency)

Management and Treatment

Your doctor may treat vitamin deficiency anemia with supplements, especially if poor diet is the cause of the anemia. Underlying conditions that cause the condition are also treated in order to reverse the effects.

How to Prevent Anemia Naturally

Prevention of Vitamin Deficiency Anemia

Making the right lifestyle choices can usually prevent this type of anemia:

1. Strive for a healthy diet: This is easier said than done. However, you don’t have to make any drastic changes. Try incorporating healthier and nutrient-dense food in your diet like:

  • Green and leafy vegetables
  • Red meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products such as cheese or milk
  • Shellfish
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes

2. Quit smoking: Smoking can interfere with many of the body’s essential functions like absorbing vitamin C. Meanwhile, quitting smoking can have many positive impacts on your health.

3. Consult your doctor about multivitamins.

4. Drink alcohol in moderation, or try not to drink any alcoholic beverages at all.

Conclusion

Vitamin deficiency anemia is a condition where a person does not have enough folate, vitamin B9 or vitamin B12 to produce enough healthy red blood cells. Having a healthy diet and avoiding vices like drinking or smoking can also greatly reduce your risk of developing this type of anemia.

Learn more about Anemia here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Tracey Romero Updated Jun 03
Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, M.D.