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Man, 19, diagnosed with pancytopenia due to lack of vitamin B12

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Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient to the body that is mainly found in animal product foods such as meat, cheese and eggs. It works to create red blood cells. Without enough of it your body won’t have enough healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body.

Understandably this can lead to a series of health problems, some of which can become debilitating.

In one case study, published in the Advanced Journal of Emergency Medicine, a patient became deficient in B12 due to his “mainly” vegetarian diet.

As a result of the deficiency he was diagnosed with pancytopenia, meaning he was lacking in all three of the cellular components of blood – red cells, white cells and platelets.

If left untreated this condition can cause serious side effects such as loss of consciousness, heavy bleeding and seizures.

Prior to his hospital admission the patient suffered from a slew of B12 deficiency-related symptoms.

The case study said: “A 19-year-old male patient presented with no known co-morbidities and a seven-day-long low-grade fever, myalgia (muscle aches and pains) and generalised tiredness.

“He also suffered from a one-week dyspnea (shortness of breath) on exertion.

“He had presented to another hospital where he was diagnosed with pancytopenia and then referred to Baby Memorial Hospital for further management.”

Tests revealed his B12 levels to be 88 picograms per millilitre (pg/mL).

Healthy levels are between 160 to 950 pg/mL.

It was also revealed he had thrush in his oesophagus and stomach “erosion”.

The patient was treated with parenteral B12 – meaning it was injected into his veins – and his condition “improved”.

Medical staff noted the effect of his diet on his condition.

The case study said: “The history of the case reported and the examinations suggested vitamin B12 deficiency mainly due to malnutrition.

“The sources of vitamin B12 in diet include eggs and animal-derived foods rather than vegetables and fruits.

“Strict vegetarians are at high risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiency if they avoid taking vitamin supplements or consuming grains that are fortified with the vitamin.”

Sources of B12 for vegetarians include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Soy and almond milk
  • Yeast spreads such as Marmite
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Fortified cereals.

If diet is not enough, B12 can be taken in the form of tablet supplements. or if your body is unable to absorb B12 properly you might require injections prescribed by a GP.

Common symptoms of a B12 deficiency include:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Lack of energy (lethargy)
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin
  • Noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)
  • Hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than from an outside source (tinnitus)
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.

You might also experience:

  • A pale yellow tinge to your skin
  • A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • Changes in the way that you walk and move around
  • Disturbed vision
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Changes in the way you think, feel and behave
  • A decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement.

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