Vitamin deficiency anemia
results from low or depleted levels of vitamin B 12 or folic acid (folate).
your body is deficient in certain key vitamins, you can develop
a condition in which your blood is low on healthy red blood cells.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from your
lungs to all parts of your body. Without enough healthy red blood cells
in circulation, your body can't get the oxygen it needs to feel
energized. To produce red blood cells, your body needs the mineral
It also needs regular intake of vitamins such as vitamin B-12, folate
and vitamin C.
A diet lacking in these key nutrients
can lead to anemia. An inability to absorb them in your intestines also
can cause the condition. Anemia caused by an inability to absorb vitamin
B-12 is called pernicious anemia.
Vitamin deficiencies also can lead to
health problems other than anemia. But you can usually correct vitamin
deficiencies with vitamin supplements and dietary changes.
Signs and symptoms
Anemia occurs in many types, but the main symptom of most anemia's is
fatigue. That's true for vitamin deficiency anemias, which can also
In addition, vitamin B-12 deficiency can also result in:
darkening of your skin
Sore mouth or
Vitamin deficiencies usually develop slowly, over several months to
years. Signs and symptoms may be subtle at first, but they increase as
the deficiency worsens.
Blood consists of a liquid called plasma and three types of blood cells:
These blood cells fight infection.
These blood cells help your blood clot after a cut.
Red blood cells
These are the most abundant of the three types. They carry oxygen
from your lungs, via your bloodstream, to your brain and the other
organs and tissues. Your body needs a supply of oxygenated blood to
function. Oxygenated blood helps give your body its energy and your
skin a healthy glow.
All three types of blood cells are produced regularly in your bone
marrow — a red, spongy material located within the cavities of many of
your large bones. To produce adequate numbers of healthy blood cells,
especially red blood cells, your bone marrow needs a steady supply of
iron, vitamin B-12, folate and vitamin C from your diet.
You need iron because red blood cells contain hemoglobin — an iron-rich
substance that enables them to carry oxygen. Vitamin B-12 and folate are
necessary because they're building blocks of red blood cells. Vitamin C
aids in the formation of red blood cells by helping you absorb iron.
With a shortage of iron, your bone marrow produces fewer and smaller red
blood cells. Anemia caused by a lack of vitamin C causes the bone marrow
to make smaller red blood cells. Without enough vitamin B-12 or folate,
your bone marrow produces large and underdeveloped red blood cells
called megaloblasts. The result is a shortage of healthy red blood cells
Anemia caused by a lack of iron is called iron deficiency anemia. Causes
of vitamin deficiency anemias, also known as megaloblastic anemias,
Folate, also known as vitamin B-9, is a nutrient found mainly in
fresh fruits and leafy green vegetables. A diet consistently lacking
in these foods can lead to a deficiency. An inability to absorb
folate from food also can lead to a deficiency. Most nutrients from
food are absorbed in your small intestine. People with diseases of
the small intestine, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, or
those who have had a large part of their small intestine surgically
removed or bypassed may have difficulty absorbing folate or its
synthetic form, folic acid. Alcohol decreases absorption of folate,
so drinking alcohol to excess may lead to a deficiency. Certain
prescription drugs, such as some antiseizure medications, can
interfere with absorption of this nutrient. Pregnant women and women
who are breast-feeding have an increased demand for folate, as do
people undergoing hemodialysis for kidney disease. Failure to meet
this increased demand can result in a deficiency. Your body stores
some folate, but anemia can develop within months if your body's
reserves are depleted.
deficiency anemia (pernicious anemia).
Rarely, vitamin B-12 deficiency results from a diet lacking in
vitamin B-12, which is found mainly in meat, eggs and milk. Most
often, a shortage occurs because your small intestine can't absorb
vitamin B-12. This may be due to surgery to your stomach or small
intestine, abnormal bacterial growth in your small intestine, or an
intestinal disease, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, that
interferes with the absorption of the vitamin. Vitamin B-12
deficiency can also be caused by a tapeworm ingested from
contaminated fish, because the tapeworm saps nutrients from your
body. However, a deficiency is most often due to a lack of a
substance called intrinsic factor. Vitamin B-12 is broken down from
food in your stomach. Intrinsic factor is a protein secreted by the
stomach that joins with vitamin B-12 in the stomach and then escorts
it through the small intestine to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
Without intrinsic factor, vitamin B-12 can't be absorbed and leaves
the body as waste. Lack of intrinsic factor may be due to an
autoimmune reaction, in which your immune system mistakenly attacks
the stomach cells that produce intrinsic factor. Or it may be due to
a genetic defect that suddenly halts production of the protein in
your adult years. Vitamin B-12 deficiency ultimately leads to
anemia. If the deficiency is from a lack of intrinsic factor, it's
called pernicious anemia. Pernicious means deadly. Lack of intrinsic
factor was often fatal before the availability of vitamin B-12
shots. Because vitamin B-12 is stored in large amounts in your
liver, it may take several years before you develop signs of a
A lack of vitamin C in your diet can cause this type of anemia. Your
body needs vitamin C, found mainly in citrus fruits, to produce
healthy blood cells. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, an
important building block of red blood cells.
Certain drugs to treat cancer also can cause vitamin deficiencies.
deficiency anemia >