Pronounced: Per-nish-us Ah-nee-mee-ahEn Español (Spanish Version)
Anemia is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBC). RBCs carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When red blood cells are low the body does not get enough oxygen. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue, pale skin, or irregular heartbeat.
Pernicious anemia is associated with problems absorbing vitamin B12. This vitamin is needed to make healthy RBCs. Over time the low vitamin B12 levels will reduce the number of new RBCs. The sooner pernicious anemia is treated, the better the outcome. If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor.
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There are many possible causes of pernicious anemia. Some are listed below.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
The following factors increase your chance of developing pernicious anemia:
The symptoms of pernicious anemia can vary from person-to-person. Symptoms may change or worsen over time. If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to pernicious anemia. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician. Symptoms can include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
Tests may include the following:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
The treatment consists of injections of vitamin B12 into a muscle. These injections are necessary because the intestines cannot absorb enough vitamin B12 without an adequate supply of intrinsic factor from the stomach.
If you are elderly, your doctor may advise you to take oral B12 supplements alone or in addition to injections of vitamin B12.
Your doctor may give you a supplement of vitamin B12 that is placed in the nose.
This treatment is recommended when an iron deficiency exists. In this case, the doctor will tell you to take iron supplements before treating with vitamin B12.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.