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 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 will also have anemia.

A deficiency of vitamin B--12 can also 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: Alexandria, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 11

Approximately 7 to 8 years before I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia I noticed symptoms. It has been approximately 12 to 14 years now. It started as stomach issues and I was told I have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I became extremely tired and couldn"t get through a day without a nap and many "lounging around" times. I had 3 young kids at the time but never felt they were the reason for my tiredness. As time went on, my feet would tingle and I often had cramps in my feet. Then the tingling in my hands began and soon after that my hands started shaking. I worked part time as a nail technician but had to stop due to the shaking. My doctor decided I was depressed and that"s why I have these symptoms. Fast forward to 5 years ago when I decided to stop antidepressants because they were making me feel terrible and were no help at all! I saw a reality medical show on TV where a woman was describing her symptoms and they were identical to mine. So I saw a new doctor and blood test revealed I had close to no B-12 in my body! I have been doing weekly shots ever since. It takes about a day for the shot to kick in but at around the 5th day, I find all my symptoms are back and I struggle to get to day 7 and do another shot. Going many years undiagnosed, my heart has been affected, my memory and speech are affected, I lose my balance walking, I get exhausted doing minimal things such as brushing my hair, my teeth, fixing a meal, walking from one room to the next, my heart is always pounding and has skipped beats, I have lost some hearing and eyesight and I can"t concentrate for more than a couple of minutes. This condition has taken over my life. I can"t work and it"s very difficult to drum up enough energy to maintain any relationship. All these things are still happening even with weekly shots and I"m only 51 years old now. I feel like 100 years old! I am trying to see a blood specialist in hopes of finding other ways to deal with this.

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Comment from: boomerdog, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 01

My tongue felt raw for several years. I had traveling pains all over and muscle weakness. My osteoarthritis got much worse. I had fatigue and constipation. When I received my diagnosis of pernicious anemia, I started taking sublingual B12. My joints felt better within two days. I still have the neuralgia pains. Maybe they will stop soon.

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