Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia - Symptoms 

Symptoms of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia 

Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia can cause a wide range of symptoms. These usually develop gradually at first, and can worsen if the condition goes untreated.

You should see your GP if you think you may have a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency. These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test. Read more about diagnosing vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia.

It's important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible because, although many of the symptoms will improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible.

Anaemia symptoms

General symptoms of anaemia (where you have fewer red blood cells than normal or you have an abnormally low amount of a substance called haemoglobin in each red blood cell) include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • lack of energy (lethargy)
  • breathlessness
  • feeling faint
  • headaches
  • pale skin
  • noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)
  • hearing sounds coming from inside their body, rather than from an outside source (tinnitus)
  • loss of appetite and weight loss

Vitamin B12 deficiency

If you have anaemia caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, you may have other symptoms in addition to those listed above, such as:

  • a pale yellow tinge to your skin
  • a sore and red tongue (glossitis)
  • mouth ulcers
  • pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • changes in the way that you walk and move around
  • disturbed vision
  • irritability
  • depression
  • changes in the way you think, feel and behave
  • a decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement (dementia)

Some of these symptoms can also occur in people who have a vitamin B12 deficiency, but have not developed anaemia.

Folate deficiency

Additional symptoms in people with anaemia caused by a folate deficiency can include:

  • numbness and tingling in the feet and hands
  • muscle weakness
  • depression

Page last reviewed: 21/05/2014

Next review due: 21/05/2016


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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Lizbar said on 05 November 2014

I had a massive bowel and stomach surgery done 7 years ago and need B12 injections but have neglected them for over three years now I have been feeling dreadfull for months then it dawned on me it was my B12 I just wanted to sleep all the time had sore mouth (thrush) all the time conjuctivituse constantly sweating for no reason headaches the lot went to my GP but it was a locum I saw that day he tested all sorts I said to him I thought it was my B12 but he tested for everything else instead thyroid the lot then eventually got my bloods done for B12 and they have come back as dangerously low so starting my injections tomorrow so hope to be feeling a bit human again soon I am a none smoker and very seldom drink social drinker only thats not often as I'm a full time carer for my disabled husband so I can't afford to be unwell.

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Jaffababe said on 24 October 2013

I'm exactly the same as manchestergirl, I smoke a little but drink a lot (again we know it's bad)! I have just had a blood test that says my B12 and folate levels are borderline low and although they didn't say the drink was causing it they did say it's not helping. They have recommended that I change my diet and reduce my alcohol intake; I work hard and tend to skip meals then I have a few drinks and therefore can't be bothered with food afterwards. I am usually very tired, I get tingling in my hands on a regular basis especially when I've just woken up and I have anxiety attacks. I take medication for high blood pressure and acid reflux, I have read that the acid reflux medication is also a possible cause of b12 deficiency. I have decided to join a local gym to try and keep me out of the pub after work I'm a social smoker so that should reduce if I'm not drinking and I'll be going home to make dinner!! I start today so I hope it helps I go back in around 5 months for another test to see if my lifestyle changes are working.

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manchestergirl said on 23 April 2013

Please help. I am 46 year old woman I have been diagnosed with enlarged red blood cells by GP and need to have B12 and folate and liver function test done. I do smoke and drink (I know bad) but GP seems to be airing towards the drink. My diet is rubbish (pizza late at night). I have been complaining of pain to my back and this is the reason I went to the GP. This could be kidney problem and this also being tested. I am somewhat worried. I am always cold, tired, suffer with depression and anxiety. I get very stressed. I have headaches (probably due to the bad diet and wine). I get pins and needles in my legs and feet and numbness. Have I damaged my body irreversibly I know might be a bit late in the day to ask by I have a young son and I am worried. The drink and cigs are no more. Anyone?

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