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

Anaemia is 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. General symptoms of anaemia may include:

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

Symptoms of 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.

Symptoms of folate deficiency

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

  • symptoms related to anaemia
  • reduced sense of taste
  • diarrhoea
  • numbness and tingling in the feet and hands
  • muscle weakness
  • depression

When to see your GP

See your GP if you're experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia. 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. Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated. The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.

Page last reviewed: 16/05/2016

Next review due: 16/05/2018