Pernicious Anemia- What’s your Risk?
The risk for pernicious anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency is highest among the elderly, but a significant number of people begin to notice the first symptoms in their 30s, contrary to popular belief. Listed below are some common symptoms of pernicious anemia and explanations regarding your risk for developing pernicious anemia in middle age.
What is pernicious anemia?
Pernicious anemia is the final stage of vitamin B12 deficiency. Pernicious anemia used to be fatal until scientists figured out that death could be easily prevented by feeding patients high concentrations of Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes many debilitating health problems, including chronic fatigue, lethargy, weakness, memory loss and neurological and psychiatric problems – long before pernicious anemia sets in. These symptoms can be quite misleading, leading to incorrect diagnoses.
Stages of vitamin B12 deficiency
There are four stages to a Vitamin B12 deficiency that end in pernicious anemia:
- Stage 1: Slowly declining blood levels of vitamin B12
- Stage 2: Low cellular concentrations of vitamin B12
- Stage 3: Increased homocysteine levels in the blood, and a decreased rate of DNA synthesis
- Stage 4: Pernicious anemia
Illnesses that mimic pernicious anemia
Illnesses and other health conditions sometimes confused with vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Alzheimer’s dementia, cognitive decline and memory loss, collectively referred to as “aging”
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological disorders
- Mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis)
- Learning or developmental disorders in children
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Autoimmune disease and immune dysregulation (unregulated immune response)
- Male and female infertility
These diseases produce signs and symptoms that also occur with vitamin B12 deficiency – but are rarely diagnosed as such!
Pernicious anemia risk categories
The following groups are at greatest risk for vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia:
- Anybody with a family history for autoimmune disorders or pernicious anemia
- Vegetarians and vegans
- People aged 60 or over
- GERD patients using PPIs or acid suppressing drugs
- Diabetics using drugs like metformin
- Patients of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac or IBS
- Women with a history of infertility and miscarriage
Vegetarians and Vegans take note: Vitamin B12 is found ONLY in animal products! To prevent pernicious anemia, it is absolutely essential that you supplement with high doses of vitamin B12.
Treating pernicious anemia
If you think you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency or pernicious anemia, you should pursue blood testing immediately. If you are vitamin B12 deficient, then the next step would be to identify the source of the deficiency.
Once the source of vitamin B12 deficiency is identified, you can then begin vitamin B12 supplementation. The many, long-term or permanent vitamin B12 supplementation is required in order to prevent a relapse of symptoms.
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