DIAGNOSING B12 DEFICIENCY
DIAGNOSTIC TESTS EXPLAINED
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are so similar to those of a variety of other conditions that it can take some considerable time (and often unnecessary tests, scans and referrals) before a correct diagnosis is achieved. Your doctor will take blood samples and if your red blood cells are enlarged, this should alert him to a possible B12 deficiency. Alcohol abuse also affects the red blood cells so don’t be alarmed if he asks about your alcohol intake!
Problem – you can be deficient and still have normal red blood cells.
Next step is to take another blood sample to check the level of B12 in your bloodstream. Your doctor will usually base his diagnosis on the figure which comes back.
Problem – you can have a normal reading and still be deficient!
What is considered a low reading varies from one area to another in the UK and can also vary greatly from country to country.
Problem – you can be deficient in Edinburgh but normal in London! Many doctors are reluctant to treat if the reading is just within normal range, completely disregarding any symptoms the patient has.
Warning! If you suspect you are B12 deficient we strongly advise you DO NOT take any B12 supplements before you have had a blood test. It is only natural to try some vitamin supplements to see if they make you feel better but in the case of B12 they will elevate your blood levels without giving long term benefit if you are deficient. A raised blood level is likely to be enough for a doctor to consider you are not deficient and you will be denied the treatment you need.