Vitamin deficiency anemia
Vitamin deficiency anemia
Vitamin deficiency anemia is a lack of healthy red blood cells caused by lower-than-normal amounts of certain vitamins. The vitamins linked to vitamin deficiency anemia include folate, vitamin B-12 and vitamin C.
Vitamin deficiency anemia can occur if you don't eat enough folate, vitamin B-12 or vitamin C. Or vitamin deficiency anemia can occur if your body has trouble absorbing or processing these vitamins.
The lack of red blood cells caused by vitamin deficiency anemia can cause weakness and shortness of breath. Vitamin deficiency anemia can usually be corrected with vitamin supplements and changes to your diet.
Signs and symptoms of vitamin deficiency anemia include:
Vitamin deficiencies usually develop slowly over several months to years. Vitamin deficiency symptoms may be subtle at first, but they increase as the deficiency worsens.
Vitamin deficiency anemia occurs when your body doesn't have enough of the vitamins needed to produce adequate numbers of healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. If your diet is lacking in certain vitamins, vitamin deficiency anemia can develop. Or vitamin deficiency anemia may develop because your body can't properly absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat.
Causes of vitamin deficiency anemias, also known as megaloblastic anemias, include:
Risk factors for vitamin deficiency anemia vary by type of vitamin deficiency.
Folate deficiency anemia
Vitamin B-12 deficiency anemia (pernicious anemia)
Vitamin C deficiency anemia
Being deficient in vitamins increases your risk of many health problems:
Preparing for your appointment
If you suspect that you have a vitamin deficiency anemia, you're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating blood disorders (hematologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your time together. For vitamin deficiency anemia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment anytime that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Doctors diagnose vitamin deficiency anemias through blood tests that check:
Additional tests for B-12 deficiency
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for vitamin deficiency anemia includes supplements and changes in diet.
Choose a healthy diet
Foods rich in folate include:
Foods rich in vitamin B-12 include:
Foods rich in vitamin C include:
Most adults need these daily dietary amounts of the following vitamins:
Pregnant and breast-feeding women may require more of each vitamin.
Consider a multivitamin
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
Last Updated: 2011-03-04
© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Terms and conditions of use