Symptoms of pernicious anemia

One of the main symptoms of pernicious anemia, caused by the lack of vitamin B12, is the feeling of being in the middle of a fog, being a sensation difficult to explain in which you feel a lack of concentration and clarity in everything that is happening around you.

This sensation is often described as being in the middle of a very heavy fog in which the body has difficulty responding to what one wishes to do.

In addition, other very common symptoms may appear, such as:

  • Excessive tiredness and difficult to explain;
  • Feeling of shortness of breath;
  • Swollen tongue;
  • Feeling of a full stomach;
  • Pallor;
  • Weak nails that break easily;
  • Irritability, impatience or sudden changes in mood;
  • Decreased libido.

Another very common symptom is the desire to eat something out of the ordinary, like earth or leaves, for example. This change in appetite is known as pica and usually occurs when the body needs some vitamins and minerals.

In more advanced cases of pernicious anemia, nerve damage can occur, causing a tingling sensation in various parts of the body, especially the hands and feet.

How to confirm the diagnosis

The diagnosis of pernicious anemia can be made through physical examination and family history assessment, since this type of anemia is common in several members of the same family. In addition, a blood test may be necessary to assess the amount of red blood cells in the blood, which is reduced in anemia.

In addition, the doctor may also order a urine test to assess the amount of vitamin B12 in the body, as the decrease in red blood cells only indicates anemia, which can also happen for other reasons. See the main types of anemia.

In some cases, the doctor may diagnose anemia and recommend supplementation with iron without assessing B12 levels. This is because iron-deficiency anemia is the most common, however, when anemia does not heal, even with supplementation, the doctor may begin to suspect other types of anemia and order further tests.

How pernicious anemia arises

Pernicious anemia occurs when there is a lack of vitamin B12 in the body, as this vitamin is very important for the production of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen in the blood.

However, this decrease in the amount of vitamin B12 can have several causes such as:

  • Diet low in vitamin B12: it is more common in vegetarians because the foods richest in vitamin B12 are meat, milk, eggs and cheese, for example;
  • Stomach reduction, as in the case of bariatric surgery: this type of procedure decreases the stomach's ability to absorb some vitamins and minerals;
  • Chronic inflammation of the stomach, as in gastritis or ulcer: the inflamed lining of the stomach reduces the absorption of vitamins;
  • Lack of intrinsic factor: it is a protein that helps the stomach to absorb vitamin B12 more easily and that may be reduced in some people.

Although it is a problem that causes several symptoms, pernicious anemia can be easily treated in about 1 month with adequate vitamin B12 supplementation. Learn more about the treatment of this type of anemia.

To clear all doubts, watch this video from our nutritionist: