Inability of the human body to make sufficient amounts of red blood cells is known as anemia. It means that there is not enough oxygen for all cells in the body and therefore people who have anemia usually develop tiredness as one of the first symptoms of this condition.
General info about Pernicious Anemia
When the cause of this problem is deficiency of vitamin B12 it is called pernicious anemia. You may also hear some doctors to refer to the same condition as: vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, megaloblastic or congenital pernicious anemia or even combined systems disease. In the past, this type of anemia was very dangerous and many patients have died because of it. Today, pernicious anemia is treatable condition and as such it should be taken care of, to avoid any permanent damage of the body. Treatment is consisted of vitamin B12 tablets or injections.
What Could Cause Pernicious Anemia?
Lack of vitamin B12 is found to have negative impact onto the development of red blood cells. This problem causes formation of very big blood cells so they can’t get out from the bone marrow.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 may develop for several reasons, such as lack of intrinsic factor, diet which lack this vitamin or because some genetic or intestinal disorders. Intrinsic factor is actually protein in the stomach, responsible for absorption of vitamin B12 and produced by parietal cells in the lining of the stomach. Certain problems with immune system and stomach surgeries may destroy these parietal cells and compromise vitamin B12 absorption, leading to pernicious anemia. There is also rare genetic problem with production of intrinsic factor, which may also be the cause of anemia due to lack of vitamin B12.
Strictly vegetarian diet and lack of vitamin B12 in the diet due to the aging or alcohol abuse is also known to cause this anemia, as well as some intestinal infections and Crohn’s disease.
Health Consequences of Pernicious Anemia
As mentioned before, people who have pernicious anemia usually feel very tired. However, this is not the only problem, since untreated pernicious anemia may provoke difficulties with functioning of the heart, nerves and digestive tract.
This type of anemia may lead to enlargement of the heart, heartbeat problems, heart murmurs or even heart failure, all due to increased level of homocysteine in the body. Consequently, pernicious anemia may lead to a heart attack or stroke. Patients may also experience problems such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, balance and walking difficulties and changes in sense of smell, taste and vision.
Mental changes may also occur in these patients, so it is not impossible to experience loss of memory or confusion due to lack of vitamin B12. Many patients notice changes in surface of the tongue. Patients diagnosed with pernicious anemia are also exposed to greater risk of stomach cancer, because of the effects of anemia to the stomach’s lining.