Pernicious Anemia - Symptoms

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The symptoms of pernicious anemia can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?

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What are the symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency/ pernicious anemia?

As discussed previously, true pernicious anemia results from an autoimmune condition that impairs absorption of dietary vitamin B-12, resulting in vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vitamin B-12 deficiency of any cause, including pernicious anemia, will result in anemia and neurologic symptoms. Because the body has large stores of vitamin B-12, a deficiency takes many years to establish.

Vitamin B-12 deficiency affects the nervous system, leading to a variety of symptoms. Sometimes, these may be apparent before symptoms related to the anemia. Neurological symptoms vary and may be nonspecific (meaning that these are symptoms that can be caused by a number of different conditions). Feelings of numbness, tingling, weakness, lack of coordination, clumsiness, impaired memory, and personality changes can all occur. Both sides of the body are usually affected, and the legs are typically more affected than the arms. A severe deficiency can result in more serious neurological symptoms, including severe weakness, spasticity, paraplegia, and fecal and urinary incontinence.

Symptoms of anemia are due to the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and pale skin can all occur with anemia. In anemia, the heart is placed under stress since it has to work harder to deliver enough oxygen to body tissues. This can result in heart murmurs, fast heartbeats, arrhythmias, an enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), or even heart failure. It is important to note that not all people who have vitamin B-12 deficiency and neurological symptoms also will have anemia.

A deficiency of vitamin B-12 also can alter the surface of the tongue, making it appear shiny or smooth.

Finally, sometimes pernicious anemia is diagnosed in a patient with no symptoms. In these cases, it is usually found incidentally when blood tests are ordered for another reason.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Houston Texan Fan, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: September 04

Early 2013 I was having problems with my heart racing. I went to the doctor, he sent me for pictures and stress test and everything was normal. I then started feeling exhausted all the time, and so I went to a different doctor because my blood pressure medicine needed to be renewed, and he sent me for the typical blood and urine tests. I thought everything would be fine; wrong! I was called back in his office urgently, he told me my B12 level (221) and iron were low and he started B12 shots once a week for eight weeks. He sent me to a gastroenterologist and found out that I had a small bleeding ulcer in my esophagus and bigger bleeder in my stomach and baby ulcers throughout my intestinal track. I am on 40 mg Protonix and I am supposed to be once a month on my B12 shots, but I don't even last that long. My B12 and iron are in normal range. I give my self B12 shots every three weeks but it doesn't last long because I have exhaustion, tingling in toes and fingers and heart racing at times. I feel like I need to be back on once a week but scared to talk to my doctor about it because of me being in normal range.

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Comment from: Gwen, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: October 27

I have had B12 deficiency for some years. I also had a thyroidectomy 46 years ago and now need thyroxine. My symptoms with regard to B12 included extreme fatigue, low concentration, and feeling cold. An outward sign of pernicious anemia was dry patches of skin on various parts of my body particularly in the underarms and on my torso. As soon as I began B12 injections I felt better.

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