Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Vitamin B-12 level

Table of Contents

Definition

The vitamin B12 level is a test to tell how much vitamin B12 is in your blood.


How the test is performed

Blood is typically drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The site is cleaned with germ-killing medicine (antiseptic). The health care provider wraps an elastic band around the upper arm to apply pressure to the area and make the vein swell with blood.

Next, the health care provider gently inserts a needle into the vein. The blood collects into an airtight vial or tube attached to the needle. The elastic band is removed from your arm.

Once the blood has been collected, the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

In infants or young children, a sharp tool called a lancet may be used to puncture the skin and make it bleed. The blood collects into a small glass tube called a pipette, or onto a slide or test strip. A bandage may be placed over the area if there is any bleeding.


How to prepare for the test

You should not eat or drink for about 6 - 8 hours before the test.

Tell your health care provider about all medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter and herbal medication. Drugs that may affect test results include colchicine, neomycin, para-aminosalicylic acid, and phenytoin (Dilantin).


How the test will feel

When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain, or only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.


Why the test is performed

This test is most often done when other blood test tests suggest a condition called megaloblastic anemia. Pernicious anemia is a form of megaloblastic anemia caused by poor vitamin B12 absorption. This can occur when the stomach makes less of the substance the body needs to properly absorb vitamin B12.

Your doctor may also order a Vitamin B12 test if you have certain nervous system symptoms. Low levels of B12 can cause numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, weakness, and loss of balance.

Other conditions under which the test may be done:

  • Delirium
  • Dementia
  • Dementia due to metabolic causes


Review Date: 03/21/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; James R. Mason, MD, Oncologist, Director, Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and Stem Cell Processing Lab, Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines, California.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org)