Understanding vitamin B12 and folate deficiency
Vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies are common and have a big impact on sufferers' lives. Margaret Perry provides an overview of the causes of, and treatments for, these conditions
Vitamin B12 and folate are essential for a number of physiological functions in the body. Deficiency of vitamin B12 is relatively common and prevalence increases with age. Folate deficiency is less common, but still clinically significant. Diagnosis can often be problematic as many of the symptoms patients present with are shared with other conditions and can easily be attributed to other causes. Mild deficiency of B12 may cause no symptoms until it has progressed to be more severe. Interpretation of B12 levels is extremely difficult as there is no clinically normal level. Diagnosis can be easily overlooked, but correct treatment has the ability to transform sufferer's lives in terms of improving energy levels and preventing further complications.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a condition that occurs around the world. Although more frequently seen in older adults, it can occur at any age and in any ethnic group and can affect both males and females alike, although there is some indication that women are more commonly affected than men and the condition tends to run in families. Symptoms can vary in severity ranging from mild to severe. Diagnosis can often be problematic as many of the symptoms patients present with are shared with other conditions and can easily be attributed to other causes. Some patients will also have folate deficiency and this aspect will be briefly covered as the two deficiencies can occur concurrently. This article aims to give practice nurses and nurse prescribers a better understanding of both conditions, and more confidence in diagnosing and treating their patients.
Vitamin B12 is vital for health and is essential for a number of physiological functions in the body, including the formation of healthy red blood cells, DNA synthesis and the healthy function of the nervous system and the brain. Folate has a similar role and is essential for the production of red blood cells, DNA and RNA synthesis, and is also important in helping to maintain brain function.
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