DIET AND FITNESS:

Pernicious Anemia --Causes and
Treatments
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Last updated August 10, 2016 (originally published February 5, 2010)

By Katrina Devine, Contributing Columnist



What do Annie Oakley, the sharp shooter, and Alexander
Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, have in common?
The answer is "pernicious anemia". Annie Oakley died of the
disease in 1926. Back then, the diagnosis of pernicious
anemia was a death sentence. But today with correct
diagnosis and prompt treatment sufferers usually make a full
recovery.

Most people are aware of the more common form of
anemia,
the one caused by insufficient iron.  But pernicious anemia is
different.

Also known as "Bierman's disease", "Addisonian anemia" or
"macrocytic achylia anemia", pernicious anemia affects about
0.1%  of the general population, about 317,000 people.
However, after age 60, your risk for pernicious anemia rises
by almost 20 times that amount.  And your risk keeps going
up as you age.


Pernicious anemia is caused by a lack of a substance called
"intrinsic factor" needed in the gastrointestinal tract to
absorb vitamin B-12.

Pernicious anemia is an
auto-immune disease where the
body attacks itself, in this case it attacks the intrinsic factor.
The inability to absorb Vitamin B-12 in the intestinal tract
causes inadequate production of red blood cells. Pernicious
anemia is essentially the lack of B-12. Of course, you can
experience Vitamin B-12 deficiency ( also called cobalamin
deficiency") for other reasons but, in many cases, especially
after age 60, pernicious anemia is to blame.

In fact, Vitamin B-12 itself was only discovered in the search
for a cure for pernicious anemia.

Pernicious Anemia Is a Serious Condition

Left untreated, pernicious anemia can cause paranoia,
delirium and confusion. It can also lead to gastric cancer.

[Update:

In fact, according to a 2012 study from the University
Sapienza in Rome, Italy, led by Dr. L. Vannella, those who
have pernicious anemia have a 7 times greater risk for
gastric cancer those who do not.]


What Causes Pernicious Anemia?




























The causes of pernicious anemia are varied. Some people
inherit it and simply have a defective gene passed down from
one or both parents.

It has also been discovered that people of northern
European descent are more likely to develop the disease
than others. Men and women are equally at risk.

Other causes of pernicious anemia are existing gastric
problems and other conditions. People with the following
conditions are particularly susceptible--- Chronic thyroiditis,  
Hypoparathyroidism, Hypopituitarism,
Graves disease,
Addison’s disease, Type 1 diabetes, Secondary amenorrhea,
myasthenia gravis, vitiligo,
Crohn's disease and celiac disease.

Those who have recently gone through stomach surgery
such as gastric bypass surgery and those taking certain
medications are also at risk.

In 2006, doctors at Saint Vincent’s Hospital and Medical
Centers in New York discovered that people who abuse
certain nitrous oxide inhalants such as "Whippit" often come
to the hospital showing Vitamin B12 defiency.


How much Vitamin B-12 do you need? Adults need 2.4
micrograms per day, according to the
National Institutes of
Health
.

The condition is not caused alone by eating the wrong foods
with the exception of strict vegetarians or vegans. However,
it is an important factor. Foods rich in vitamin B-12 include;
meat-especially liver, poultry, fish and shellfish, milk and milk
products. Eggs can be a good source also but it should be
noted that they also contain elements that block absorption.
For those who are vegan, it is recommended that they eat B-
12 fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

Symptoms of Pernicious Anemia

Adults over the age of 30 are most at risk but the disease is
often not diagnosed before the age of 60 because of the
nature of the symptoms. The symptoms that the disease
present are easily misdiagnosed as other conditions.

Because of B-12’s importance to the brain and nervous
system many of the symptoms relate to these and the lack of
oxygen traveling to the brain.

Symptoms of pernicious anemia include bleeding gums,
diarrhea, fatigue, impaired sense of smell, loss of  muscle
reflexes, loss of appetite, pallor and
premature gray hair,
personality or memory changes,
rapid heart rate, shortness
of breath,
tingling and numbness of hands and feet, cold feet
and hands
, tongue problems- normally swollen and red --
and unsteadiness while walking, especially in the dark.

One important symptom of pernicious anemia in the elderly is
cognitive impairment. Are you forgetting things? The
problem could be Vitamin B-12 deficiency. According to a
1992 study from the Denver VA Medical Center (led by Dr.
Pennypacker), as many as 14% of the elderly have Vitamin
B-12 deficiency and another 62% have levels of Vitamin
B-
12 at the low end of normal.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Pernicious Anemia

As mentioned above, pernicous anemia is often mis-
diagnosed. If any of your family members had the condition,
and you have any of the symptoms, special screening is
recommended to ensure early diagnosis. You will need full
blood tests and sometimes urine tests.

If the condition is simply caused by the lack of vitamin B-12,
then eating foods rich in Vitamin B-12, or taking a course of
B-12 supplements or injections will rectify the problem.

Usually strong injections of vitamin B-12 are given once a
week for 5 or 6 weeks and then once a month.
A nasal spray and oral dose are also available but not as
widely used as the injections.

If the pernicious anemia is caused by an underlying
condition, then that condition must be treated also to
successful fight the deficiency.

Foods Rich in Vitamin B-12 (cobalamin)

-liver
-egg yolks
-chicken giblets
-kidneys
-almonds, nuts
-beans, lentils
-split peas
-soya
-beetroot
-spinach
-peaches
-cabbage
-brussel sprouts
-broccoli
-asparagus
-oranges
-bananas

Here is one last important thing  to remember in your
treatment for pernicious anemia. Don't stop. Once you have
received treatment and the condition disappears, you should
continue taking Vitamin B-12 unless your doctor indicates
otherwise, because pernicious anemia can reoccur.

Fortunately, unlike iron or other vitamins and minerals, B-12
has no established toxicity for higher doses or prolonged use.












































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How Much Is Too Much Salt?

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Peaches are an excellent
source of Vitamin B-12,
which you need to avoid
pernicious anemia.


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