UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: International EM

Title: Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Part 2

Keywords: B12 deficiency, ataxia, dementia, pernicious anemia (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/4/2017 by Jon Mark Hirshon, MD, MPH, PhD
Click here to contact Jon Mark Hirshon, MD, MPH, PhD

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause significant disease, including severe neurologic problems. However, patient presentations can vary greatly.

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Constitutional symptoms: fatigue, lack of energy, lightheadedness, loss of appetite
  • Gastrointestinal problems: diarrhea or constipation
  • Cardiovascular: shortness of breath, dyspnea on exertion, tachycardia, CHF
  • Oral lesions: swollen, red tongue (glossitis) or bleeding gums
  • Problems concentrating

Prolonged B12 deficiency can lead to significant neurologic complications, frequently related to the spinal cord, and can include:

  • Mild impairment to dementia
  • Depression, psychosis
  • Loss of balance, limb weakness, ataxia
  • Peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling of hands and feet)