What is pernicious anemia? Symptoms, causes and treatment

Anemias can be divided into different groups, including megaloblastic ones. This category is where pernicious anemia is located. In fact, the main cause of the appearance is the vitamin B12 deficiency, as a consequence of poor absorption.

A percentage of 90% is considered to be associated with autoimmune reactions. In that sense, to learn more about this disease, we will expand the information in the following lines.

Description of pernicious anemia

It comes from atrophic gastritis, which causes loss of parietal cells in the stomach. They are responsible for secreting glycoprotein from the gastric mucosa. Also, it is known as an intrinsic factor, since they intervene in the proper functioning of the intestine and in the absorption of vitamin B12.

Generally, it is a consequence of autoimmune endocrine diseases or digestive problems. The decrease in hemoglobin and hematocrit corresponds to the first signs of this disease. On the other hand, red blood cells increase in size, producing macrocytosis, an increase in the size of the red blood cells in the blood.

Symptoms of pernicious anemia

The first warning factor is the absence of appetite and paleness. Similarly, these symptoms are accompanied by the following signs:

  • Shortness of breath and fatigue
  • Difficulty to sleep.
  • Incrise of cardiac frecuency.
  • Lack of appetite and decreased body weight.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Tingling sensation in the extremities.
  • Numbness of hands and feet.
  • Aphthous ulcers in the mouth.
  • Difficulty maintaining balance.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Sudden change and behavior disturbances.
  • Neurological problems
  • Appearance of diseases in the digestive tract.
  • Cardiovascular problems.

How is it diagnosed?

To confirm the presence of pernicious anemia, a hemogram is performed, where the values ​​associated with the condition are appreciated. Similarly, leukopenia, mean corpuscular volume in high values ​​is likely to be seen in studies. Low platelets and low reticulocytes. Also, the doctor can detect by the method of palpation a spleen enlargement.

Causes of pernicious anemia

The problem of absorption of vitamin B12 is the main cause of this disease, it corresponds to one of its main triggering agents. On the other hand, it is associated as a result of the following autoimmune endocrine diseases:

  • Autoimmune endocrine diseases.
  • Diabetes type 1.
  • Addison’s disease.
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Hypopituitarism.
  • Chronic thyroiditis
  • Vitiligo
  • Graves-Basedow disease.
  • Myasthenia gravis (MG).
  • Digestive problems associated with the intake of medications that cause disturbances in gastrointestinal absorption.
  • Infections caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.
  • Chronic gastritis.
  • Crohn’s disease.
  • People with diets lacking in vitamin B12.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Celiac disease or tropic sprue.
  • Poor diet during the first trimester of pregnancy.
  • Tuberculosis patients taking colchicine, neomycin, and paraaminosalicylic acid


To treat this type of anemia, it is necessary to determine the cause of the disease. Then the specialist will be able to indicate the most effective treatment. However, the most common action is to make dietary changes and include vitamins. The most used are:

  • Folic acid supplements.
  • Vitamin B-12 injections.
  • Vitamin B12 supplements, in spray or pill form.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Changes in the diet, prioritizing the consumption of foods rich in vitamin B12.

How to prevent?

It is difficult to prevent, since its origin is due to the intrinsic factor. Therefore, if the body is unable to absorb vitamin B12, the disease develops. However, people on vegetarian diets often do not receive the vitamin. In this case, a change in diet will be necessary.

The main recommendations to prevent pernicious anemia are based on a diet rich in vitamin B12. Similarly, a change in diet can make a difference. Here are some suggestions:

  • Consume eggs and dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese.
  • Cereals: ideal for breakfast. It is preferable to choose those that are fortified with the vitamin.
  • Fish and shellfish: Contains 98 micrograms of B12.
  • Beef: like liver, it provides iron, protein and vitamin B12.
  • Poultry.


Diagnosed patients can develop anxiety problems. However, they need to be aware that it is possible to lead a normal life with proper treatment. In addition, the support of the health professional is essential to receive continuous assistance. In this way, constant monitoring will allow us to know the levels of deficiency. Other suggestions for coping with the disease are:

  • Communicate about the condition to all family members. They will be very supportive and contribute to the intake of a healthy diet.
  • Establish healthy habits and avoid tobacco use.
  • Give special care to older adults with pernicious anemia, since absorption is more difficult in them.

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