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How to Spot Vitamin Deficiencies

by
author image Erin Beck
Erin Beck began writing professionally in 2008 as an opinion columnist for the West Virginia University student newspaper, "The Daily Athenaeum." She has worked in health promotion at the university and as a communications intern at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism and a Master of Public Health, both from West Virginia University.
How to Spot Vitamin Deficiencies
A healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables helps prevent a vitamin deficiency. Photo Credit Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images

Vitamin deficiencies can cause mild health problems or lead to serious diseases. An individual can perform several actions to prevent vitamin deficiencies, such as eating a wide variety of foods and consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes in healthy portions. You can also monitor your eating habits to make sure you're getting enough vitamins. If you aren't doing so already, think about taking a vitamin supplement. Also, take note when you display unusual physical symptoms. While many vitamin deficiencies are rare, physical symptoms can point to a lack of a certain vitamin. See a health care professional if you notice any symptoms of a vitamin deficiency.

Step 1

Keep a food diary. Online programs can tell you the nutrition facts, including vitamin content, of each food you eat. Calculate how much of each vitamin you are consuming each day and ensure each meets the Recommended Dietary Allowance.

Step 2

Note if your eyes have trouble adapting to the dark. This is an early sign of vitamin A deficiency, according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. You may also experience night blindness or reduced ability to fight infections. However, vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States.

Step 3

Assess any fatigue, weakness, irritability, weight loss, and vague myalgias and arthralgias--all early signs of vitamin C deficiency, according to Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Mylagias are muscle pains and arthralgias are joint pains. Eventually, vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy, a rare condition characterized by fatigue, malaise, gum inflammation, joint pain and poor wound healing.

Step 4

Watch for any involuntary contraction of muscles, numbness of the fingertips and around the mouth area, twitching of the muscles of the eye and nose and around the mouth or spasms of the hands or feet. These are all symptoms of hypocalcemia, a condition caused by vitamin D deficiency, according to Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Vitamin D deficiency can also result in rickets or osteomalacia. Rickets is a rare disease that results in soft bones and skeletal deformities. Osteomalacia results in weak muscles and bones.

Step 5

Look for signs of muscle weakness to determine if a vitamin E deficiency exists. Common signs of this deficiency are peripheral neuropathy, ataxia, skeletal myopathy, retinopathy or impairment of the immune response. Vitamin E deficiency is rare but often an issue for people who have fat-malabsorption disorders. Peripheral neuropathy causes numbness and pain in your hands and feet. Ataxia describes a lack of muscle coordination. Myopathies contribute to weakening and atrophy of skeletal muscles. Retinopathy is damage to the blood vessels of the retina that can lead to blindness.

Step 6

Take note of impaired blood clotting and easy bruising or bleeding, as you may have vitamin K deficiency. An early sign is oozing blood from the gums or nose, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Deficiency is rare but may occur in people taking vitamin K antagonist anticoagulant drugs, given to those who have liver damage or who have fat-malabsorption disorders, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Step 7

Gauge patterns of fatigue, irritability, poor memory, sleep disturbances or pain in the region over the heart or stomach, as this may signal a thiamine deficiency, according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Later, deficiency causes the disease beriberi. Results of thiamine deficiency can include peripheral neuropathy, rapid heart rate, enlargement of the heart, severe swelling, difficulty breathing, congestive heart failure, abnormal eye movements, stance and gait abnormalities or abnormalities in mental function. Alcoholism is the main cause of thiamine deficiency in developed countries, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Step 8

Pay attention if you have a sore throat, any cracks or sores on the lips and at the corners of the mouth, redness of the tongue and skin inflammation, which are all possible signs of riboflavin deficiency. Also called ariboflavinosi, riboflavin deficiency usually occurs when other water-soluble vitamins are lacking. The risk is higher in alcoholics, people who are lactose intolerant and those who are very physically active, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Step 9

Take heed of skin lesions, burning in the pharynx and esophagus, abdominal discomfort and constipation, as these may be symptoms of niacin deficiency, according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library. Later, deficiency in niacin can result in pellagra. Pellagra symptoms include dermatitis, diarrhea and dementia.

Step 10

Note any numbness and painful burning and tingling in the feet, as well as fatigue. This could possible be a sign of pantothenic acid deficiency, although it is very rare.

Step 11

Take heed of bodily changes such as dermatitis, a sore tongue, depression, confusion and convulsions, as these may signal a vitamin B6 deficiency. Many older Americans don’t get enough vitamin B6, although they don’t meet the qualifications for deficiency, according to the National Institutes of Health. Alcoholics are at increased risk. Still, vitamin B6 deficiency is rare in the United States.

Step 12

Pay attention to patterns of hair loss, a rash around the eyes, nose, mouth, and genital area and neurological problems, all symptoms of biotin deficiency. This deficiency is rare; people with the hereditary condition biotinidase deficiency, taking anticonvulsants, pregnant women and with liver disease are among those at risk.

Step 13

Evaluate any constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss to determine if a vitamin B12 deficiency exists. People at risk of vitamin B 12 deficiency include older adults, those with pernicious anemia, those who have had gastrointestinal surgery, vegetarians and pregnant and lactating women.

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