vitamin deficiency test: Signs Of Vitamin Deficiencies And What To Do Next

We all know how crucial it is to maintain a regular balanced diet, which combines the goodness of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in the right proportions. A healthy diet equates to a healthy body, and no matter what celebrities say or do, diets are meant to be personalized, tailored for the needs of your body only. However, most people have the temptation to follow the unhealthy diets which usually don’t comprise the necessary micronutrients called vitamins. They’re called as such because only a little bit is enough for the body. However, when you don’t give the body even that much, you’ll eventually suffer from vitamin deficiency diseases. This article will provide you with a little heads up regarding different types of vitamin deficiency test and how to ensure these diseases don’t occur again.

What Is Vitamin Deficiency?

The lack of a particular vitamin can lead to various vitamin deficiency symptoms and signs, which indicate that there is a vitamin deficiency. First, you need to understand what vitamins you are lacking based on the signs and symptoms, health status and test results from your doctor. Only then, according to the suggestion of your doctor, you should take prescribed medications and dietary supplements. Any substance that further aggravates the problems and causes unnecessary side effects should be discontinued. Now let’s head on to the types of vitamins, and what happens when their deficiencies occur.

Types of Vitamins

The major vitamins required by our bodies are A, B, C, D, E and K, out of which vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, while vitamin B exists as a complex of several vitamins. Lack of any vitamin is a major concern and there are certain vitamin deficiency tests that can help you know which vitamins your body lacks.

Vitamin A:

  • Function: Vitamin A is needed for cell growth and development, antioxidant activity, supporting the expression of certain genes, vision, immune function, and cell recognition.
  • Types: There are four known types of vitamin A, which are preformed vitamin A, provitamin A, retinol (active form found in our body) and beta-carotene (an active form found in plants).
  • Signs, symptoms, and diseases: A vitamin deficiency symptom, in this case, includes hypovitaminosis A, whose first symptom is night blindness. Complete blindness may occur if vitamin A is not supplemented. The risk of infections may increase in the throat, abdomen, and chest. Another symptom is hyperkeratosis, in which the skin is dry and bumpy. The lack of vitamin A can stunt growth in children.
  • Vitamin Deficiency Test: If you suspect vitamin A deficiency, you should get a complete blood count (CBC) test, comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) test and also a test for detecting retinol-binding protein levels. The blood sample will be drawn from a vein. Since retinol is light-sensitive, the sample would be kept in the dark. An indication of low retinol-binding protein levels indicate low serum vitamin A.

Vitamin B:

  • Function: Vitamin B12 is crucial for red blood cell formation and regulating nervous formation. Vitamin B6 is needed for proper fetal development in pregnant women, energy production and fighting infections. On the other hand, Vitamins B1 and B2 are needed for neurological benefits and eyesight. Vitamin B3 aids in digestion and developing one’s appetite. Vitamin B9 encourages red blood cell growth and fetal development.
  • Types: Vitamin B complex includes vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 and lastly B12. Each of these has various sources. While vitamin B12 is more prevalent in meat, vitamin B7 and B9 are found more in fruits.
  • Signs, symptoms and diseases: Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to anemia, dementia, depression, paranoia and confusion. Whereas, lack of vitamin B6 has been associated with skin rashes and cracks around the mouth. Deficiency in vitamin B3 can lead to nausea, mental confusion and cramps. In pregnant women, vitamin B9 deficiency has been associated with birth defects while others may get diarrhea or anemic. Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks cells in the digestive tract, which reduces a person’s ability to absorb vitamin B12. So although you’re taking enough vitamin B12, the test would detect serum vitamin B levels only. Since the vitamin isn’t being absorbed, the test would still show a deficiency.
  • Vitamin Deficiency Test: You can test for vitamin B12 deficiency at home. Home test kits can be bought online, which detects the presence of methylmalonic acid. If its level is higher than 3.8 micrograms you know you got a vitamin B12 deficiency. That itself indicates low vitamin B12 levels. Doctors would suggest to do a CBC test as well for further confirmation of a vitamin B deficiency, especially B12. The normal range for vitamin B12 is 190-900 ng/mL.

Vitamin C:

  • Function: Vitamin C is extremely important, as its main function involves the growth and repair of damaged tissues in all parts of the body. It’s needed for healing wounds, maintaining bone and teeth health and absorption of iron. Vitamin C also has potent activity.
  • Types: The most bioavailable form of vitamin C is ascorbic acid, but ascorbate salts can be used by the body too.
  • Signs, symptoms and diseases: Almost everyone knows that a lack of vitamin C could cause scurvy, which is a very severe form of gum bleeding. Teeth may fall out and gums may appear purplish. However, other signs of vitamin deficiency include gingivitis, rashes, impaired healing of injuries and internal bleeding. In children, bone growth would be slow with the lack of vitamin C.
  • Vitamin Deficiency Test: Diagnosis of vitamin C deficiency is done with a CBC and sometimes X-ray in children. Often the CBC would indicate anemia, and despite bleeding issues, prothrombin time would be normal. X-rays in children may possibly show atrophy around the ends of the bones, especially in the knees. Levels less than 0.2 mg/dL of ascorbic acid are treated as vitamin C deficiency.

Vitamin D:

  • Function: Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium into the body and for healthy bone growth and development. Our body is naturally able to produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is needed for immune function and neural function.
  • Types: There are two major types, vitamins D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Our body uses vitamin D3 and converts it to 1.25- dihydroxyvitamin D. This acts as a hormone for mineral balance, especially for calcium and phosphorus.
  • Signs, symptoms and diseases: In children, the sign of vitamin deficiency in this case is rickets, in which the bones soften. In adults, the vitamin deficiency symptom in this case is termed as osteomalacia, which is another term for insufficient bone mineralization.
  • Vitamin Deficiency Test: A specific kind of blood test, also called 25 (OH)D test is done. You can do this via consulting a doctor or even do the test at home. Simply order a test kit online and all you have to do is prick your finger, then send the drop of blood sample to a nearby laboratory. Less than 30 ng/mL is considered a deficiency by the American Vitamin D Council.

Vitamin E:

  • Function: Vitamin E plays an important role as antioxidants and can produce anti-aging effects. Vitamin E is also needed by the immune system for fighting infections. Other activities include red blood cell formation, increasing use of vitamin K, widened blood vessels and the prevention of blood clotting within these blood vessels.
  • Types: There are eight different types. These types are grouped into two major categories of vitamin E – tocopherol and tocotrienol. The most potent type and the type found in our bodies is alpha tocopherol. Although the human body needs all eight types, most multivitamins contain alpha tocopherol as the main vitamin E component.
  • Signs, symptoms and diseases: The signs of vitamin E deficiency include neuro myopathies, spinocerebellar ataxia, the absence of certain reflexes, lacking the ability to feel vibrations, hemolytic anemia, immune function problems and retinopathy. Mutations in certain genes, such as tocopherol transferring protein could cause lifelong suffering, as individuals with this mutation cannot use vitamin E despite its consumption. People with inherited abetalipoproteinemia also can’t absorb vitamin E, due to which they lose the ability to metabolize fat.
  • Vitamin Deficiency Test: Other than a CBC blood test, there’s no other way to determine vitamin E levels. In general, vitamin E deficiency is extremely rare. However, doctors consider a level less than 12 micromol/L as a vitamin E deficiency.

Vitamin K:

  • Function: The major role of vitamin K lies in blood clotting. In fact, it can reverse the effects of blood thinners. It’s used for the treatment of some bleeding conditions, osteoporosis in adults, itching, bone loss and can help lower one’s cholesterol levels. Vitamin K topically applied may help in healing scars, and reducing swelling and bruises. It also supports heart health.
  • Types: There are two types – vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Both are used by the human body. Vitamin K1 is found in green leafy vegetables, such as kale, while K2 is produced by the gut bacteria.
  • Signs, symptoms and diseases: Although vitamin K deficiency is rare, the only known symptom that’s caused by the deficiency is uncontrollable bleeding, also called VKDB. This is mostly seen in infants.
  • Vitamin Deficiency Test: Your doctor will tell you to do a prothrombin test. This test measures how long it takes for your blood to clot. The more delayed the time is, the more you can be sure you have a vitamin K deficiency. One’s blood usually takes around 13 seconds to clot. If your bleeding doesn’t clot within 13.5 seconds, you may be deficient in vitamin K.

If you are experiencing or showing any of these signs and symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately. The only way to recover from a vitamin deficiency is using prescribed medicines and supplements as suggested by the physician. Usually, symptoms go away very quickly, within a few days with regular recommended intake of vitamins in the right proportions. If you’re lacking more than one vitamin, a multivitamin supplement may be just what you need. Most importantly, you need to ensure a balanced healthy diet that suits your body type best. Good food, good life!

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