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