Pernicious anemia is a type of anemia which afflicts because of lack of vitamin B-12. The impaired uptake of this vitamin leads to pernicious anemia. It happens due to lack of vitamin B-12 in the diet. It is known that vitamin B-12 can remain stored in the body for a long time. If one is unable to take this vitamin for a very long time, only then pernicious anemia strikes.
It is usually seen in people of 60 years and above. It is a treatable disease, it is not deadly as the word pernicious suggests. Earlier when the cause of this anemia was not known, people used to die due to lack of treatment, hence the name was given.
This article will inform you about the causes, symptoms, treatments and risk factors of pernicious anemia.
Causes of Pernicious Anemia
Lack of vitamin B-12 in the diet is one cause. It could also be due to an autoimmune disease in which the absorption of vitamin B-12 gets impaired. Intrinsic factor (IF) is a protein which is made in the stomach, it is this IF that facilitates the absorption of vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 attaches itself to this protein and travels further down in the small intestine where its absorption takes place.
Thus, one cause of pernicious anemia is the lack of intrinsic factor (IF). There is another cause which is again due to autoimmune system. The antibodies get formed which react against the lining of cells of the stomach.
Treatment of Pernicious Anemia
The treatment of pernicious anemia is fairly simple. The doctor gives the required dosage of vitamin B-12. The doctor also checks for the other underlying causes responsible for the deficiency of this vitamin. Treatment is done for those causes also so that there is visible improvement within a few days.
An injection of vitamin B-12 is given once a day for one week with a dose of 1 mg per day. After that the similar injection is given weekly for one month. The treatment does not stop here, thereafter it is continued as a monthly shot for as long as your doctor feels the requirement.
Symptoms of Pernicious Anemia
Sometimes pernicious anemia shows no symptoms at all, it is diagnosed in a routine blood test or in an incidental blood test.
One feels tired, rundown and weak. There may be clumsiness, lack of coordination, and poor memory. The hands and the feet get numb and at times there is a tingling sensation. Legs and feet are more often affected than the hands. There may be dizzy feeling and the heartbeats may become fast. The tongue becomes smooth and bright red in color.
Risk Factors of Pernicious Anemia
The first factor to be considered is the family history of pernicious anemia. If there has been a case of pernicious anemia in the family, all other blood relatives have to be watchful. The second risk factor is the surgical removal of the entire stomach. The IF is produced in the stomach and nowhere else. The third risk factor is for those whose small intestine is removed, because of which the absorption of vitamin B-12 cannot take place.
Further, it is the Caucasian races that are more vulnerable than the colored ones.
Finally, If there exists an autoimmune disorder due to malfunctioning of endocrine glands, that can be a major risk factor for the pernicious anemia. Certain intestinal disorders may also lead to this anemia.