What is vitamin deficiency anemia?

Vitamin deficiency anemia occurs when the body has fewer healthy red blood cells than is normal. Red blood cells help deliver oxygen to organs and tissues all over the body. When you don’t have enough red blood cells, your body does not get the amount of oxygen it needs.

How common is vitamin deficiency anemia?

The risk of developing vitamin deficiency anemia gets higher as you grow older. Pregnant women are at a higher risk for developing the condition because their bodies need more vitamins during pregnancy.

What causes vitamin deficiency anemia?

A lack of any one of several vitamins — B12, folate (also known as folic acid), or vitamin C — causes vitamin deficiency anemia. Megaloblastic anemia is a type of vitamin deficiency anemia that specifically involves a lack of vitamin B12 or folate.

Some people with the condition don’t eat enough of these vitamins. In other cases, the person’s body cannot properly process or absorb these vitamins. This difficulty may result from an underlying condition such as celiac disease. It is also linked to behaviors including smoking and alcohol abuse.

Sometimes a person’s body will have an increased need for these vitamins. People who need more of these vitamins include women who are pregnant and people with cancer that has spread to multiple parts of their bodies. If they do not meet this additional need for vitamins, they can develop vitamin deficiency anemia.

What are the symptoms of vitamin deficiency anemia?

Symptoms of vitamin deficiency anemia are often mild. In many cases, people only discover they have the condition when a doctor tests them for another condition. Other people may develop symptoms that include:

  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Numbness or cold feeling in hands and feet

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