Pernicious anaemia otherwise known as vitamin B12 anaemia is a type of vitamin B12 deficiency that is gotten as a result of a reduced intake of vitamin B12 due to the lack of the presence of a particular substance known as the intrinsic factor (IF) derived from the mucosa lining of the stomach.
This is a condition caused as a result of the deficiency of vitamin B12 in the body. Normally, the presence of vitamin B12 helps the body in the production of healthy and normal Red Blood Cells and as well as help in the preservation and nurturing of healthy nerve cells in the body. Vitamin B12 is gotten from foods taken into the body. Foods such as eggs, fishes, meat, milk etc are very good sources of vitamin B12 in the body.
Pernicious anaemia is a type of disease characterized by the distribution and circulation of large, immature, nucleated cells which are otherwise known as megaloblasts in the blood such that they imitate red blood cells, but they do not function as normal red blood cells.
Pernicious anaemia is due to the body’s inability to properly absorb vitamin B12 after it has been taken in and digested by the cells present in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Normally, the body tends to store excess nutrients in the body and that includes vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 can be stored by the body for a long time.
For a person to have inadequate levels of vitamin B12 in the body, it means that the person has been under severe malnutrition such that the storage of vitamin B12 must have been depleted in the body. This therefore means that the very onset of pernicious anaemia is not known, and it could have lasted for years before eventually, the body begins to show signs and symptoms from the deficiency of vitamin B12.
While there are indeed other forms of anaemia gotten as a result of the deficiency of vitamin B12, pernicious anaemia is due to an autoimmune disorder which is as a result of the inability of the body to absorb Vitamin B12. While in other types of anaemia, the body can still absorb vitamin B12, in pernicious anaemia, it is very difficult for the body to absorb this very important vitamin.
Pernicious anaemia is commonly seen in older people and due to the fact that it can’t be detected early, most times pernicious anaemia is found in older people most especially those within the age limit of 50years and above. Pernicious anaemia is a disease that is considered to be autoimmune which means that it occurs most especially when the immune system mistakenly starts to identify wrong pointers in the body and hence, begin to attack its own cells.
Apart from the deficiency in the levels of vitamin B12 in the body, there are other causes of pernicious anaemia and they include partial or total gastrectomy( which is the partial or total removal of the stomach, some medical conditions such as celiac or Crohn’s disease, infections of the internal organs found in the gastrointestinal tract, effects of the excessive use of drugs that helps in the reduction of stomach acid as well as poor nutrition.
There are several symptoms of pernicious anaemia and they affect both the nervous and then also the General body. The symptoms include:
- Severe body weakness
- Lack of body and nervous coordination
- Severe clumsiness
- Impaired memory which may lead to memory loss
- Tingling in the arms and toes
- Personality changes may also occur
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath may occur
There are some points to take note about pernicious anaemia. They include;
- Pernicious anaemia is hereditary. If there is a case in which one’s parents or grandparents has the disease, they are indeed going to pick up the same type of anaemia.
- There is no exact way to prevent pernicious anaemia from occurring. This is because doctors have not yet discovered how to preserve the cells that can be destroyed by the immune system.
- There is something known as congenital pernicious anaemia and this occurs when the baby begins to suffer from the deficiency of vitamin B12 right from birth. Though it is very rare and not usually seen but then statistics show that every 1 of 500 babies may have congenital pernicious anaemia.
- When a person has pernicious anaemia, the deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause an interference in the nervous system causing a malfunction in the nervous system causing a nervous system disorder. Symptoms of a nervous system disorder might actually be the first symptom to be noticed even before the symptoms of the blood disorder is noticed.
- Pernicious anaemia can also be seen alongside other serious autoimmune diseases. Diseases like grave’s disease, hashimoto’s thyroditis and also the depigmentation or the blanching of the skin otherwise known as vitiligo are all associated with pernicious anaemia.
- Deficiency of pernicious anaemia can also be noticed on the tongue. The tongue begins to look shiny and bright.
- In some patients, there may be no sign of pernicious anaemia and they can only be detected after a full blood work-up.
- Pernicious anaemia can be treated by giving the patient high doses of vitamin B12 or folic acid.
- Patients with pernicious anaemia will likely develop stomach cancer. This is because of the severe effects this type of anaemia has on the gastric lining of the stomach,
- A patient with pernicious anaemia may begin to experience memory loss which may either be long term or short term depending on the severity of the anaemia. They may also begin to experience confusion and disorientation likewise lack of mental coordination.
- If you are a vegetarian, you may have a high risk of developing pernicious anaemia. This would occur if he or she doesn’t take vitamin B12 supplements.
- Age too plays a very important role. The older we get, the harder it becomes for our body to absorb some certain vitamins. Likewise, the more we age, the more B12 we need.
If any patient who has a history of pernicious anaemia is having neurological problems or he/she is beginning to show signs of a neurological disorders, then he or she should see make sure to see a doctor immediately.
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