Vitamin B Deficiency Diseases: Types, Symptoms, and More!

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Vitamin B deficiency diseases affect your brain, heart, mental well-being, and more. If you don’t obtain enough vitamin B from your diet or if your body doesn’t absorb enough from the food you consume, you’re at risk of having vitamin B deficiency disorders. If you wish to decrease the health hazards connected with vitamin B deficiency, there are several things you may do. To begin, have a Vitamin B Complex Profile performed to check if you are deficient. If you are, consult your doctor about what you should do next.

Vitamin B Deficiency Diseases and Conditions

1. Beriberi

A deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine) causes beriberi. This disease is of two types: wet beriberi (which affects the cardiovascular system) and dry beriberi, also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (which affects the nervous system).

The symptoms of dry beriberi include:

  • Nystagmus (eye movements)
  • Tingling feeling or numbness in feet and hands
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Weakness in muscles or paralysis
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Pain

Wet beriberi can cause additional symptoms, such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the legs

If beriberi is detected during its early stages and treated on time, the heart and nerve damage caused can be reversed. But if beriberi progresses to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, the brain damage is often permanent. 

2. Pellagra

Pellagra is a disease that is caused due to vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency. The common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dermatitis
  • Dementia
  • Insomnia
  • Tongue inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Weakness
  • Ataxia
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy

A diet that lacks niacin causes reduced production of nicotinamide adenine diphosphate (NAD), which is required for some crucial metabolic functions in the body. If left untreated, it can even lead to death within 4 to 5 years.

3. B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 (cobalamine) is only present in animal foods. As a result, vegetarians and vegans are at high risk of B12 deficiency. The symptoms of B12 deficiency include:

  • Tingling or numbness in legs, hands, and feet
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Difficulty walking
  • Tongue inflammation
  • Cognitive changes
  • Jaundice
  • Hallucinations
  • Weakness
  • Paranoia
  • Fatigue

4. Folate Deficiency

Folate (vitamin B9) works with other B vitamins to metabolize proteins, and synthesize both blood cells and DNA. Since the body doesn’t store this vitamin, its levels can become low after consuming a folate-deficient diet for just a few weeks. The primary symptoms of folate deficiency include:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • headache
  • A smooth or tender tongue.
  • Increased risk of neural tube defect in the developing fetus of a pregnant woman

Other Health Conditions Linked With Vitamin B Deficiency

  • Peripheral neuropathy: A condition affecting the nervous system, characterized by a stabbing or burning pain.
  • Heart attack and stroke: Vitamin B12 deficiency increases the risk of getting a stroke or heart attack.
  • Paresthesia: A condition characterized by a feeling of “pins-and-needles” experienced around the legs, hands, arms, or feet
  • Psychosis: A mental condition that alters the thoughts and perceptions, leading to hallucinations, delusions, nonsense talks, or other symptoms.

Key Takeaway

For most people, a well-balanced diet containing a variety of grains, meats, fruits, and vegetables is enough to prevent a vitamin B deficiency. The elderly with medical conditions and pregnant women are at high risk of vitamin B deficiency and hence need to or are advised to take vitamin B supplements.