Anemia is a medical condition in which the number of normal red blood cells in your blood is low. Pernicious anemia, a type of vitamin B12 deficiency, results from the incapability of absorbing the vitamin B12 which your body requires to produce enough healthy red blood cells. It is, however, considered rare.
The name “pernicious” originates from the fact that it was once regarded as a fatal disease in view of the shortage of available treatment back then. However, nowadays the treatment for the disease is comparatively easy with B12 injections or supplements. The deficiency of vitamin B12, if left untreated, can leave behind serious complications.
Causes of Pernicious Anemia
Vitamin B12 is an indispensable element in making red blood cells. Shellfish, meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy products are rich sources of this vitamin that you can get.
A special protein, called intrinsic factor, aids your intestines in taking in vitamin B12. Cells in the stomach take responsibility for releasing this protein. If the stomach cannot yield enough intrinsic factor, the intestine fails to absorb vitamin B12 properly.
Common Causes of Pernicious Anemia
One of the most common causes of pernicious anemia is the autoimmune condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks intrinsic factor protein or the cells that make it. Besides, weakened stomach lining (atrophic gastritis) can also make a great contribution to this disease
Pernicious anemia can run in families, though rare; it is called congenital pernicious anemia. Babies with this kind of anemia can hardly make sufficient intrinsic factor or properly absorb vitamin B12 in the small intestine.
Adults with pernicious anemia rarely display any symptoms until after age 30. The average age of diagnosis is age 60.
There are higher chances that you will get this disease if:
- You are Northern European or Scandinavian
- You have a family history of pernicious anemia
Here below is the list of a certain number of diseases that can also increase the risk.
- Graves disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Chronic thyroiditis
- Myasthenia gravis
- Testicular dysfunction
- Secondary amenorrhea
- Addison’s disease
Symptoms of Pernicious Anemia
The deficiency of vitamin B12 whatever the cause it is – pernicious anemia, for example – can lead to anemia and neurologic symptoms. It is known that the body can store a large amount of vitamin B12, so it will take a lot of years for the deficiency to set up.
Your nervous system is influenced when vitamin B12 is deficient, thus resulting in a wide range of symptoms. These may occasionally be apparent before symptoms are linked to the anemia. Neurological symptoms can vary and may not be specific, which means these are symptoms which can be triggered by many other conditions. There may occur feelings of tingling, numbness, fatigue, lacking coordination, clumsiness, impaired memory, and personality changes. Usually, the two sides of the body can be affected, and the arms are often less affected than the legs. If the deficiency is severe, it can lead to more dangerous neurological symptoms. For instance, you may experience:
- severe weakness
- fecal and urinary incontinence
Symptoms of anemia are caused by the decreased oxygen-bearing capacity of the blood. Shortness of breath, tiredness, dizziness, and pale complexion are symptoms that follow anemia. Furthermore, the heart is put under stress because it has to work extra to transport enough oxygen to body tissues, which can lead to arrhythmias, fast heartbeats, heart murmurs, an enlarged heart, or even heart failure. It is, above all, important to remember that not all people with vitamin B12 deficiency and neurological symptoms have anemia. The surface of your tongue may turn shiny or smooth in view of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Finally, pernicious anemia can also be symptomless. In these cases, it is often discovered incidentally when you have a blood test for another condition.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: August 31, 2017 | Last Modified: August 31, 2017
Pernicious Anemia. http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/pernicious-anemia/overview.html. Accessed August 17, 2017
Pernicious Anemia. http://www.healthline.com/health/pernicious-anemia#overview1. Accessed August 17, 2017
Pernicious Anemia and Vitamin B-12 Deficiency. http://www.medicinenet.com/pernicious_anemia/article.htm. Accessed August 17, 2017