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Common Vitamin Deficiencies That Make You Tired

By Kelsey Casselbury ; Updated August 14, 2017

At the end of a long, exhausting day, you can't do anything but flop on the couch and watch TV all night long. While the feelings of fatigue might be due to a hectic day and stress-inducing coworkers, a vitamin deficiency could also be to blame. Ask your doctor to do blood work to test for levels of vitamins B-12 and D, as a deficiency in either can lead to fatigue.

Prevalence of Deficiencies

If you suffer from a vitamin deficiency, chances are that it's D or B-12 causing the problem. Vitamin D is the most common deficiency, affecting 41.6 percent of Americans, according to a study published in 2011 in "Nutrition Research." The rates are even higher in blacks -- 82.1 percent -- and Hispanics -- 69.2 percent. People with darker skin are more likely to have a deficiency, as are those who always wear sunscreen or cover their skin with clothing, live in the northern part of the U.S. or are older, pregnant or obese. The prevalence of a vitamin B-12 deficiency is significantly lower, and affects mostly those age 51 and older, making up about 3.2 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vegetarians and vegans have B-12 deficiency rates that range from 11 to 86 percent, depending on the stage of life.

Signs of Deficiencies

If you don’t get enough sunlight or take supplements, you could have a vitamin D deficiency. The symptoms are vague, but can include fatigue or general aches and pains. A severe deficiency could appear as pain in your bones, weakness or frequent infections. One of the main signs of a vitamin B-12 deficiency is fatigue, along with weakness, constipation and loss of appetite. You might also experience balance problems, depression, poor memory and soreness in your mouth and tongue. Sever deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia and neurological problems.

Testing for Deficiences

Whether you display classic signs of a vitamin deficiency or you complain of fatigue, your doctor can use blood tests to determine if you have deficiencies. According to the Vitamin D Council, your vitamin D is measured by determining your 25(OH)D level in your blood. It ranks deficiency at a level of 0 to 30 nanograms per milliliter and insufficiency as 31 to 39 ng/ml. Levels of vitamin B-12 are determined with a complete blood count, peripheral blood smear and serum cobalamin test. Low levels are noted as 200 picograms or less per milliliter.

Treating the Deficiencies

If your test results indicate that you're deficient in either of these vitamins, improving your intake can help you feel less exhausted, and could affect other symptoms, as well. Your doctor will determine the best treatment for you, depending upon the cause of the deficiency and your current levels. Vitamin D treatments include spending more time in sunlight and taking an oral supplement. Vitamin B-12 treatments include modifying your diet, taking an oral supplement and intramuscular injections.

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