Vitamin Deficiency Anemia

1 What is Vitamin Deficiency Anemia?

Vitamin deficiency anemia, as the name indicates, is the anemia caused by lack of vitamins needed for the production of red blood cells.

Less than normal levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin in blood is called  anemia.


Vitamin B 12, vitamin B 6, and folate are essential for the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to different parts of the body. Vitamin deficiency anemia is very common among elderly people who have reduced appetite.

Vegetarians also have an increased risk of developing this anemia as meat is one of the main sources of vitamin B 12.

Lack of vitamins lead to fatigue and weakness. Healthy diet rich in vitamins improves the condition and is one of the most effective ways of treating vitamin deficiency anemia.

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2 Symptoms

Symptoms of vitamin deficiency anemia are similar to that of other types of anemia, and develop gradually over a period of time.

Fatigue, weakness and pale skin are the most obvious symptoms. Other symptoms are:

3 Causes

Insufficient amounts of vitamins for producing red blood cells is the most important cause of vitamin deficiency anemia. Lack of enough vitamins in the diet and problems in the absorption of nutrients from the food lead to vitamin deficiency.

Folate deficiency anemia

Diet lacking folate is the common cause of this deficiency. Conditions like celiac disease affects the absorption of vitamins from the intestine and can cause folate deficiency.

People who had bariatric surgery may also develop vitamin deficiency. Certain medications like anti-seizure drugs and alcohol abuse lead to anemia due to reduced absorption of folate.

Pregnancy, breast-feeding, and hemodialysis increase the demand for folate, and hence reduced supply of the vitamin in diet will lead to anemia.

Pernicious anemia

Lack of vitamin B 12 in diet and insufficient absorption from the intestine are the main causes of pernicious anemia.

Gastric bypass surgery and conditions like Crohn’s disease affect the absorption of vitamin resulting in reduced levels in blood.

Tapeworm infection also lead to anemia as the parasite absorbs the nutrients. Autoimmune reactions in which the immune system attacks cells of the stomach is another reason for this form of anemia.

The stomach cells produce an intrinsic factor that helps in the absorption of vitamin B 12. Lack of intrinsic factor causes vitamin deficiency.

Vitamin C deficiency may also lead to anemia. Deficiency of this vitamin stems from lack of enough vitamins in the diet and insufficient absorption from the intestine.

Smoking increases the chances of vitamin deficiency as it interferes the absorption of vitamin in the intestine.

Major risk factors for vitamin deficiency anemia are:

  • Malnutrition
  • Chronic diseases
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Hemodialysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer treatment
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Intestinal problems
  • Certain medications
  • Smoking
  • Autoimmune disorders

4 Making a Diagnosis

Blood test is the definitive diagnostic test for vitamin deficiency anemia. Less than normal levels of red blood cells in the blood is the most common indicator of anemia.

Vitamin deficiency anemia caused by deficiency of vitamin B 12 and folate lead to the formation of large red blood cells that are underdeveloped.

In severe form of deficiency, levels of white blood cells and platelets also decrease considerably. Moreover, shape of the cells are abnormal indicating vitamin deficiency anemia.

Lower levels of these vitamins in blood also is an indicator of this anemia. Additional tests are performed to determine the type and severity of deficiency.

  • Presence of antibodies to intrinsic factor point to pernicious anemia.
  • Vitamin B 12 deficiency is also associated with higher levels of methylmalonic acid in blood.
  • Absorption of vitamin B 12 is checked by Schilling test. In this test, radioactive vitamin B 12 is ingested to track the absorption into blood and intestine.

5 Treatment

Vitamin supplements and changes in diet are the main treatment methods for controlling vitamin deficiency anemia.

Folate deficiency anemia can be controlled by having folate supplements and a healthy diet.

Supplements can be stopped when the folate levels in blood reach the normal levels. Vitamin B 12 deficiency is also corrected with supplements and diet. For severe form of vitamin B 12 deficiency, vitamin injections are given. Vitamin C tablets are given for controlling vitamin C deficiency that leads to anemia.

Increasing the intake of these vitamins in diet also helps to alleviate symptoms of anemia. 

6 Prevention

Healthy diet is the best way to prevent vitamin deficiency anemia.

Including sources of different vitamins like:

  • green leafy vegetables,
  • fortified foods,
  • fruits, milk,
  • cheese,
  • and enriched grains

are ideal to prevent anemia.

For people who have a restricted diet, multivitamins are suggested. Alcohol use and smoking interferes the absorption of vitamins in intestine.

Avoiding or reducing the use of alcohol and quitting smoking help to prevent anemia. 

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for vitamin deficiency anemia.

Ferrum metallicum and aletris farinosa reduce weakness, paleness and fatigue.

Picric acid and phosphorous are suggested in homeopathy for the treatment of pernicious anemia.

Alumina, nux vomica and calcarea phos are used to control anemia caused by nutritional disturbances.

Some of the common home remedies for anemia are beef liver, beets, and spinach. 

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Healthy diet is essential to boost energy levels and to cope with vitamin deficiency anemia.

Take supplements as per requirement. 

9 Risks and Complications

Vitamin deficiency anemia may lead to complications in pregnancy, nervous system disorder, and scurvy. 

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