Most cases of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency can be easily and effectively treated and complications are rare. However, complications can sometimes develop especially if you have experienced vitamin deficiencies in the past.
Complications of anemia
All types of anemia, regardless of the cause, can trigger heart and lung complications because the heart struggles to pump oxygen to vital organs.
Adults with severe anemia are at risk:
- Abnormal rapid heartbeat ( tachycardia )
- Heart failure - the heart fails to pump enough blood throughout the body at the right pressure
Lack of vitamin B12 can cause neurological problems (which affect the nervous system), such as:
- Vision loss
- Memory loss
- Tingling sensation ( paresthesia )
- Loss of physical coordination (ataxia), which can affect the performance of the whole body and cause difficulty speaking or walking
- Damage to parts of the nervous system ( peripheral neuropathy ), especially in the legs
If neurological problems continue to develop, the disorder may not be treatable.
In some cases, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause temporary infertility (inability to get pregnant). This condition usually improves with proper vitamin B12 treatment.
As with vitamin B12 deficiency, folate deficiency can also affect your fertility level. However, this is only temporary and can usually be treated with folate supplements.
If you are exposed to vitamin B12 deficiency caused by pernicious anemia (a condition when the immune system attacks healthy cells in your stomach), your risk of developing stomach cancer will increase.
Research shows that folate deficiency can increase the risk of some types of cancer, such as colon cancer.
Neural tube defects
Pregnant women who don't have enough vitamin B12 are at risk of having a baby birth defect known as a neural tube defect. The neural tube is a narrow channel forming the brain and spinal cord.
Nerve tube defects, including:
- Spina bifida - baby's spine is not well developed
- Anencephaly - babies born without parts of the brain and skull
- Encephalocele - a membrane or skin sac that contains a part of the brain pushed out through a hole in the skull
As with vitamin B12 deficiency, folate deficiency can also affect the growth and development of unborn babies in the womb (uterus). Folate deficiency can increase the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida that develops in unborn babies.
Research shows that lack of folate in the body can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
CVD is a general term that describes heart or blood vessel disease, such as coronary heart disease (CHD).
Lack of folate supply during pregnancy can increase the risk of a baby born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or have a low birth weight.
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Reviewed date: January 20, 2017 | Last Edited: January 20, 2017