Monique Kahn, MS, RD
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.
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.
There are many possible causes of pernicious anemia. These include:
Pernicious anemia is more common in people over 50 years old, and in those of northern European or Scandinavian descent. Factors that may increase your chance of pernicious anemia include:
Autoimmune disorders, such as:
Pernicious anemia symptoms can vary from person to person. Symptoms may change or worsen over time.
Pernicious anemia may cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Blood tests are used to evaluate specific components to determine if there is a deficiency in proteins, vitamins, or building blocks.
Other tests may include:
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 an older adult, 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 sprayed into 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.
There are no current guidelines to prevent pernicious anemia.
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
Public Health Agency of Canada
Pernicious anemia. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116294/Pernicious-anemia. Updated August 9, 2013. Accessed September 23, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
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