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What exactly is pellagra and what are the main symptoms?

Pellagra is actually another term for vitamin B3 deficiency,which is a condition that primarily occurs due to the lack of this vitamin inthe diet. This is why this condition is particularly common in those countriesand parts of the world in which poverty and famine are present. It can also be aresult of the body’s inability to absorb this vitamin, or of chronic alcoholismor some gastrointestinal disorder. If the intake of tryptophan is decreased orif the intake of leucine is increased, pellagra might also develop.

It is not at all hard to diagnose this condition, sincethere are some symptoms that are actually typical characteristics of it. The four D’s thatinclude diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia and death are practically inevitable,although increased sensitivity to sunlight, alopecia, edema, skin lesions, andinsomnia usually accompany them as well. The symptoms of pellagra can bedivided into three categories, or more precisely into those that arepsycho-sensory, psycho-motor and emotional in nature. Psycho-sensory problems consistof dizziness, odors intolerance that results in vomiting, nausea, a number ofother gastrointestinal problems, and intolerance of bright light, while those thatcan be classified as psycho-motor disturbances are restlessness, inclination toquarrel, and readiness for motor action. As for the symptoms that are relatedto skin, the lesions are very similar to sunburns, and they tend to blister,while the skin becomes susceptible to hyperpigmentation and thickening. Theentire body is affected, which makes it more than painful. The death is aresult of untreated condition, and in case the condition is left untreated, thepatient cannot live longer than four or five years top.

How serious is it and can it be cured?

The symptoms indicate the seriousness of the condition inquestion and the fact is that the sooner the treatment begins, the lower therisks of developing some permanent consequences (dementia, psychosis and coma) are.The disease is progressive, and the symptoms aggravate over time, so thetreatment depends on the stage of the development. The treatment generallyconsist of taking niacin in higher dosage through food that is rich in thisvitamin and through various nutritional and dietary supplements. Besides this,the treatment has to include the treatment of symptoms or some underlyingcondition, if present. During the treatment, the patient needs bed rest. However, having in mind the seriousness of the condition, it is much easier to prevent it by simply consuming foods that contain niacin.

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