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Vitamin deficiency anemia


Disease: Vitamin deficiency anemia Vitamin deficiency anemia
Category: Blood diseases & tumors

Disease Definition:

The body requires vitamins, which are nutrients available in most foods, for several reasons including producing healthy red blood cells. If the person’s body is insufficient in certain key vitamins, he/she could develop vitamin deficiency anemia, which is one of the types of anemia. The body doesn’t make sufficient red blood cells when someone has vitamin deficiency anemia. Oxygen is carried from the lungs to all parts of the body by red blood cells. The body can’t get all the oxygen it needs to feel energized because vitamin deficiency anemia decreases the number of healthy red blood cells. Memory difficulties and tingling in the hands and feet are other health problems caused by vitamin deficiency anemia. Changes in diet and supplements often correct vitamin deficiency anemia.

Work Group:

Symptoms, Causes


Vitamin deficiency anemia could cause:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability
  • Unsteady movements
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Fatigue
  • Mental confusion or forgetfulness
  • Sore mouth and tongue
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet


Vitamin deficiency symptoms might be subtle at the beginning but they increase as the deficiency gets worse. Vitamin deficiencies often develop slowly, over many months to years.


The body requires a healthy diet that provides a steady supply of vitamins and other nutrients to produce adequate numbers of healthy blood cells, specifically red blood cells. Vitamin deficiency anemia could develop in case the diet is lacking in certain vitamins. In some cases, when the body can’t properly absorb the nutrients from the diet, anemia could also develop. Also called megaloblastic anemia, vitamin deficiency anemia may be caused by some of these conditions:


Folate deficiency anemia:

One of the nutrients found primarily in citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables is called folate or vitamin B-9. A deficiency may result from a diet that is systematically lacking in these foods. Most nutrients from food are absorbed in the small intestine. Additionally, an inability to absorb folate from food could also lead to a deficiency. People suffering from diseases of the small intestine such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, or those who have had a large portion of their small intestine surgically removed or bypassed, might have difficulty absorbing folate or folic acid, which is its synthetic form. Drinking alcohol to excess might lead to a deficiency for alcohol decreases absorption of folate. Certain prescription drugs could also intervene with absorption of this nutrient such as some anti-seizure medications. People undergoing hemodialysis for kidney disease, as well as pregnant women and women who are breast-feeding have an increased demand for folate. Deficiency may result in case this increased demand isn’t met.


Vitamin B-12 deficiency anemia (pernicious anemia):

Vitamin B-12 is found primarily in meat, eggs and milk. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may in some rare cases results from a diet lacking in it. The inability of a person’s small intestine to absorb vitamin B-12 results in a shortage. This might be the result of surgery to the stomach or small intestine (like gastric bypass surgery), abnormal bacterial development in the small intestine, or an intestinal disease like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, intervening with the absorption of the vitamin. Additionally, tapeworms sap nutrients from the body so that in some cases, vitamin B-12 deficiency may result in case a person has ingested tapeworm from contaminated fish. Yet, lack of the substance called intrinsic factor is the most common cause of deficiency. Vitamin B-12 is secreted from food in the stomach. Intrinsic factor is a protein released by the stomach that joins vitamin B-12 in the stomach and accompanies it through the small intestine to be absorbed by the bloodstream of the person. Vitamin B-12 won’t be absorbed and will leave the body as waste without the presence of intrinsic factor. An autoimmune reaction in which the person’s immune system mistakenly attacks the stomach cells that produce intrinsic factor may result in the lack of it. Anemia will eventually result from vitamin B-12 deficiency. Pernicious anemia is when the deficiency is caused by a lack of intrinsic factor. Pernicious means “deadly”. Before the availability of vitamin B-12 shots, lack of intrinsic factor was usually fatal. It might take many years before signs of deficiency show because vitamin B-12 is stored in large amounts in the liver.


Vitamin C deficiency anemia:

Anemia could also result from a lack of vitamin C in a person’s diet. To produce healthy cells, the body needs vitamin C, which is primarily available in citrus fruits. Additionally, iron, which is an important building block of red blood cells, is absorbed with the help of vitamin C. Cancer, general malnutrition, hyperthyroidism or a decrease in the ability to absorb dietary iron are other possible causes of this kind of anemia.
Vitamin deficiencies can also result from certain medications that treat cancer.



A person will be at risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency anemia if he/she:


Has an intestinal disease:

The absorption of vitamin B-12 may be hindered as a result of surgery to the intestines or stomach, or an abnormal bacterial growth in the stomach.


Doesn't eat meat and dairy products:

These include foods that contain a lot of vitamin B-12. Strict vegetarians may be especially at risk of this type.


Lacks intrinsic factor:

Intrinsic factor is a protein secreted by the stomach that is necessary for the absorption of vitamin B-12. This factor is lacking in most people who have vitamin B-12 deficiency. A genetic defect or an autoimmune reaction may be the cause of this lack.


Has another autoimmune disorder:

A person will be at an increased risk of developing pernicious anemia in case he/she has thyroid disease, diabetes or some other endocrine-related autoimmune disorder.


Takes certain medications:

The absorption of vitamin B-12 may be hindered due to antacids and some medications that are used in treating type 2 diabetes.



A person is at risk of folate deficiency anemia if he/she:


Abuses alcohol:

This is because alcohol intervenes with the absorption of folate.


Is pregnant:

This is especially true if the pregnant woman isn’t taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid.


Is undergoing hemodialysis for kidney failure:

To prevent a deficiency in this case, the patient should ask the doctor if he/she needs supplemental folic acid.


Has intestinal problems:

This could intervene with the absorption of folate.


Has a poor diet:

A person may be at risk of folate deficiency anemia in case his/her diet is extremely lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables, or the person systematically overcooks the food.


Is undergoing cancer treatment:

The metabolism of folate may be intervened by some medications that are used in treating cancer.


Takes certain prescription medications:

These include medications that block the absorption of folate, such as some anti-seizure medications.



A person could be at risk of vitamin C deficiency anemia if he/she:


Has a health condition:

Cancer or hyperthyroidism may lead to a deficiency because these diseases drain the body of vitamin C.


Is a smoker:

Smoking decreases the absorption of vitamin C, leading to its deficiency.


Is malnourished:

This occurs when the person isn’t getting the needed vitamins and nutrients.



Deficiency in vitamins increases the risk of several health problems, such as:


Birth defects:

Birth defects of the brain and spinal cord may result from lack of folate in pregnant women.



Bleeding under the skin and around the gums are some of the signs and symptoms of this rare disease. Scurvy may result from vitamin C deficiency.


Nervous system disorders:

Vitamin B-12 is as essential for the production of red blood cells, as it is important for a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B-12 deficiency could lead to neurological problems, like relentless tingling in the hands and feet in case it is left untreated. Since vitamin B-12 is requisite for healthy brain function, its deficiency could also lead to mental confusion and forgetfulness. Vitamin B-12 deficiency could result in these and other health problems before leading to anemia.


Changes in diet and supplements are included in treatment for vitamin deficiency anemia:


Folate deficiency anemia:

Taking a folic acid supplements as prescribed by the doctor and eating a healthy diet are involved in treating this type. Mostly folic acid supplements are taken orally. The common dose is 400 micrograms (mcg) daily or 600 mcg each day for most pregnant women. A person may need to take folic acid supplements for life in case he/she has difficulty absorbing folate.


Vitamin B-12 deficiency anemia (pernicious anemia):

Changes in the diet and vitamin B-12 supplementation under a doctor’s supervision is involved in the treatment of vitamin B-12 deficiency associated with a poor diet. The person will either need lifelong vitamin B-12 injections or nasal B-12 sprays in case their body is unable to absorb vitamin B-12. Though at first the person may need the shots or nasal spray every other day, but eventually, the injections or the nasal sprays are required once a month only. if the B-12 deficiency isn’t corrected within several months, neurological complications might get permanent; this means that prompt treatment is important. 


Vitamin C deficiency anemia:

Vitamin C tablets are included in the treatment of this rare anemia. These tablets should be taken as directed by the doctor. In addition, the person should increase his/her intake of foods and beverages containing vitamin C.


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