When you do not have enough vitamin B12 in your body, you can’t produce enough red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body. This condition is called pernicious anemia.
For most patients, pernicious anemia can be successfully treated with vitamin B12 shots, pills or spray.
Pernicious anemia causes
Common causes of pernicious anemia include the following:
- A strict vegan diet, without any meat, fish or dairy products, which makes it difficult to get enough vitamin B12
- Not having enough intrinsic factor (IF), a protein in your stomach that helps your body absorb vitamin B12
- A weak stomach lining
Pernicious anemia symptoms
Symptoms range from mild to severe. If you have any of the following symptoms of pernicious anemia and they don’t go away, call your primary care physician to schedule an appointment:
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Pale skin
- Cold hands and feet
- Irregular heartbeat
- Tingling or numb hands and feet
- Problems with balance or walking
- Digestive issues such as nausea, heartburn or gas
- Tongue that is thick, red and smooth
- Desire to eat nonfood items such as dirt, ice or paint (called pica)
How can I get help for pernicious anemia?
Your doctor will examine you and order tests to measure your vitamin B12 levels. You may also need to have your bone marrow analyzed.
If additional testing is needed, you may be referred to a hematologist (a physician who specializes in blood disorders) at Rush.
Care for pernicious anemia at Rush
Treatment for pernicious anemia usually involves taking vitamin B12 via pills or injections.
You may take large, frequent doses until your vitamin B12 levels rise. Afterward, you may take less frequent doses to maintain your vitamin B12 levels.
Why choose Rush for care of pernicious anemia care
- Expert care: At Rush, doctors who treat children and adults with blood disorders and are also involved in clinical and laboratory research. This extensive experience gives them a deep understanding of diseases of the blood.
- Clinical trials: At Rush, you’ll have access to the latest treatments being tested in clinical trials.