Pancreatitis Caused by Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, a gland located in the upper abdomen 1. The pancreas secretes enzymes that are useful in the digestion of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is important in the production of healthy red blood cells and in the maintenance of healthy nerve cells, according to 1. Pancreatitis may be caused by a deficiency in vitamin B-12 1.

Deficiency of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B-12 is absorbed in the stomach. Deficiency of vitamin B-12 occurs due to lack of intrinsic factor, a protein made in the stomach, according to Oregon State University 2. Intrinsic factor helps extract vitamin B-12 from food during digestion. Factors that affect the presence of intrinsic factor include surgeries that remove parts of the stomach and the use of antacids for a long period of time. Patients must eat foods containing vitamin B-12 such as red meat, eggs, shellfish, poultry and dairy products in order to prevent vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Pernicous Anemia

Vitamin B-12 deficiency leads to a form of anemia known as pernicious anemia, according to Oregon State University 2. Pernicious anemia affects the digestive system organs including the pancreas because of lack of flow of oxygen rich blood to the organs. Symptoms of pernicious anemia include:

  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • pale skin
  • light-headedness
  • shortness of breath
  • red tongue
  • problems concentrating

Permanent Pancreas Damage

Lack of treatment of pernicious anemia can lead to permanent damage to body organs such as the heart, nerves and digestive system organs such as the pancreas, according to Oregon State University 2. Treatment of pernicious anemia involves lifelong vitamin B-12 injections. Some patients may find benefit from vitamin B-12 tablets, multivitamins containing vitamin B-12 and changes in diet.