Blood diseases can be very troublesome as they can create multiple issues at one time. There are many blood related problems that affect our body, one among them is anemia. This is a medical condition in which the blood is low in the red blood cells which causes severe weakness and other health issues. It is also categorised under sub-categories. Today we will know about Pernicious anemia that is caused by B-12 deficiency in the body. It is an autoimmune process which makes a person unable to produce intrinsic factor in the stomach. It is a rare condition and does not occur normally unless you are suffering from an underlying blood condition or have B-12 vitamin deficiency.
What is Pernicious Anemia?
Our expert Dr. Ravi Chandra, Head of Haematology Department in B.N.K Hospital, Bangalore explains about this disease. He tells that this autoimmune disease is quite rare and occurs mostly in older adults. This is because older adults tend to have lower levels of vitamin B-12 in their bodies and due to lack of proper nutrition or underlying health condition, this condition occurs. Low amount of blood in red blood cells can cause a panic situation because it causes variety of symptoms at the same time and most people think of it as heart attack. Lately treatment for this disease has been discovered otherwise it was considered as a deadly disease.
Symptoms of Pernicious Anemia
Symptoms of this disease do not occur suddenly. It is a gradual process, as the blood in red blood cells gets low, symptoms become more evident and painful. There are two types of symptoms which happen in pernicious anemia, the common symptoms and the severe symptoms.
Common symptoms of Pernicious Anemia
- Chest pain
- Pale skin
- Weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
When this disease is prolonged due to lack of vitamin B-12 deficiency, then the neurological symptoms start to occur which include the following-
- Memory loss
- Muscle weakness
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Unsteady gait
What Causes This Autoimmune Blood Disorder?
The major cause of this disease is vitamin B-12 deficiency in the body which slows the process of making red blood cells in the body. This lack of vitamin B-12 can be because of different causes. Here are some of the most prominent causes.
1. Lack of vitamin B12 in Diet
This includes not having balanced and nutritious diet. It does not happen in a day, if you have this deficiency, which means there was lack of vitamin B12 foods in your diet from a long period. People with anemia have low levels of normal red blood cells because of inadequate amount of vitamin B12 found in these foods-
- Dairy products
- Soya, nut and rice milks
- Nutritional supplements
2. Lack of intrinsic factor in the body
Intrinsic factors consist of proteins that absorb vitamin B-12. Intrinsic factor is a type of protein that is produced in parietal cells in the stomach. Whenever you consume a food that has vitamin B12 in it, these intrinsic factors bind with them in the stomach. These two are together absorbed in the last part of your small intestine. In most cases, body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells, these cells are known are parietal cells that produce intrinsic factors in the stomach. As these cells are damaged and can no longer make IF which does not let small intestine absorb B-12 vitamins in the diet. This leads to pernicious anemia.
3. Small intestinal conditions
Diseases within small intestine also cause deficiency of vitamin B12 which causes pernicious anemia. Diseases that can lead to this deficiency are crohn’s disease, HIV or celiac disease. If one has the ileum portion of the small intestine removed with surgery, then this problem can occur as well.
Other than this if there is any disruption in the small intestine that leads deficiency in flora bacteria it causes vitamin B12 deficiency. Antibiotics also play a huge role in some cases in causing deficiency in bacteria needed for absorption. People suffer from small intestinal bacteria that grow in large number creating this vitamin deficiency leading to pernicious anemia.
Risk Factors Involved in Pernicious Anemia
There are factors and underlying health conditions that can lead to pernicious anemia. Risk factors for this autoimmune disease are-
- Having someone in the family who has suffered from this disease
- Type-1 diabetic condition, diabetes mellitus, this is also an autoimmune condition
- Having intestinal diseases that cause vitamin B12 deficiency
- Being older than 60 years of age
- Gone through a surgery for removal of your stomach
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