Test Detail
Overview
Interpreting Results
FAQ's

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Written by
Dr. Betina Chandolia
BDS, MDS - Oral Pathology and Microbiology
Reviewed by
Dr. Ashish Ranjan
MBBS, MD (Pharmacology)
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Vitamin B12

(Vit B12)
Vitamin B12
You need to provide
Blood
This test is for
Male, Female
Test Preparation
  1. Do not eat or drink anything other than water for 8-12 hours before the test.

Overview


What is Vit B12?

Vitamin B12 is said to be a micronutrient which means it is needed in very small amounts. Vitamin B12 test measures the levels of Vitamin B12 in blood. It plays an important role in the formation of healthy red blood cells, smooth functioning of the brain, and metabolism (processing) of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the food. 

Why is Vit B12 done?

The Vitamin B12 test is performed:

  • To diagnose anemia

  • To diagnose neuropathy (numbness and pain due to nerve damage)

  • To evaluate nutritional status

  • To monitor the treatment for Vitamin B12


What does Vit B12 Measure?

Vitamin B12 is a part of B complex of vitamins. Vitamin B12 is also called as Cobalamin. It is a water soluble vitamin. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in formation of normal red blood cells, repair of tissues, DNA synthesis and genetic material in cells. It is not produced in the body and has to be taken in diet. The diet sources include red meat, fish, milk, poultry, yoghurt, eggs, fortified cereals, breads and other grain products. It can also be taken in the form of Vitamin B12 tablets or multivitamin pills. The deficiency of Vitamin B12 results in macrocytic anemia (size of red blood cells larger than normal).

Megaloblastic anemia is a type of macrocytic anemia, in which large size red blood cells called as macrocytes are produced. These red blood cells are fewer in number. There is a decrease in white blood cell count and platelet count. Megaloblastic anemia occurs due to acquired deficiency of Vitamin B12. The reason can be an inadequate dietary intake of Vitamin B12 or any problem in the absorption of Vitamin B12 from the intestines.

In case of problem in the absorption of Vitamin B12 from intestines, it is known as Pernicious anemia. It occurs due to lack of intrinsic factor which is present in secretions of the stomach.

Vitamin B12 is also important for nerve health and is taken as a nutritional supplement for the treatment of nerve damage.

Vitamin B12 binds with intrinsic factor (protein secreted by cells in the stomach). After binding, a complex is formed which is absorbed by the small intestine. In case of any disease interfering in this process can cause weakening of absorption of Vitamin B12.   

Interpreting Vit B12 results


Interpretations

The normal range is 211 - 911 pg/mL irrespective of sex and age.

High levels of Vitamin B12 may be seen in:

  • Kidney failure

  • Diabetes

  • Liver disease


Low levels of Vitamin B12 may be seen in:

  • Anemia

  • Hyperthyroidism (high levels of thyroid)

  • Worm infection

Answers to Patient Concerns & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Vit B12


Frequently Asked Questions about Vitamin B12

Q. How is this test performed?
This test is performed on a blood sample. A syringe with a fine needle is used to withdraw blood from a blood vessel in your arm. The healthcare provider will tie an elastic band around your arm to make the blood vessels swell with blood. This makes it easier to withdraw blood. You may be asked to tightly clench your fist. Once the veins are clearly visible, the area is cleaned with an antiseptic solution and then the needle is inserted into the blood vessel to collect the sample. You will feel a tiny pinprick during the procedure. Blood sample once collected will then be sent to the laboratory.
Q. Is there any risk associated with this test?
There is no risk associated with the test. However, since this test involves a needle prick to withdraw the blood sample, in very rare cases, a patient may experience increased bleeding, hematoma formation (blood collection under the skin), bruising or infection at the site of needle prick.
Q. What are the signs and symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
The signs and symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include delirium (confusional states), paranoia (an unrealistic distrust of others), dizziness, diarrhea, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, and pale skin. Some may also experience fast heart rate, irregular heart beat, shortness of breath, painful tongue and mouth, tingling or numbness or burning sensation in feet, hands, arms, and legs.
Q. What are the risks associated with deficiency of Vitamin B12?
If deficiency of Vitamin B12 is not treated quickly, it can lead to memory loss, confusional states, paranoia (mental condition in which person loses touch with reality) especially in old age patients.
Q. When does the doctor advise Vitamin B12 test?
The doctor advises Vitamin B12 test in people with a history of malnutrition or any condition leading to malabsorption (improper absorption).
Q. In what conditions there can be malabsorption of Vitamin B12 test?
Conditions like pernicious anemia (decrease in red blood cells due to deficiency of Vitamin B12), celiac disease (immune reaction to gluten), inflammatory bowel diseases (inflammation of digestive tract), and gastric bypass (surgery that removes part of the stomach) can cause malabsorption of vitamin B12 test. However, other conditions can also cause malabsorption such as overgrowth of bacteria or presence of parasites such as tapeworms in the intestines, reduction in stomach acid production (due to long-term use of antacids), and insufficiency of pancreas (inability to digest food properly).
Q. Can any medicine cause deficiency of Vitamin B12?
Yes, some medicines such as metformin, omeprazole, methotrexate or phenytoin can cause deficiency of Vitamin B12.
Q. Are there any other factors which cause deficiency of Vitamin B12?
Yes, factors such as smoking, drinking heavy alcohol or chronic (from a long time) alcoholism, pregnancy can cause deficiency of Vitamin B12.
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