Pernicious Anemia vs Megaloblastic Anemia

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illustration of Megaloblastic Anemia

Little were you aware that the prolonged sickly feeling and fatigue you were enduring all this time could be a potential symptom of pernicious anemia. Are you worried that there has been a massive cut-back in your appetite? Certainly, no sign of blooming health, Time to get treated as these could also be ranked as popular symptoms of megaloblastic anemia.

What is pernicious anemia?

To begin with, anemia is a term known to all and sundry. This medical condition shows up when the density of blood is slackened in the red blood cells. Surely, you are schooled about the pivotal role of vitamins in a human body. When the body is incapable of imbibing the essential nutrient of vitamin B-12, pernicious anemia springs up as an unavoidable aftermath. Pondering about the role of vitamin B-12? Well, it hugely contributes to the generation of healthy red blood cells.

The name “Pernicious Anemia” has often sparked curiosity amongst people with least knowledge about the same. Pernicious, also meaning deadly was once a very complicated disease to be cured. It is still reckoned as a rare disorder, affecting merely 1% of the population. Of course, with progressive medical inventions on board, truly effective supplements and B-12 injections are widely available as an appropriate cure.

Limelight on the common causes of pernicious anemia:

Gastric Atrophy

Also known as Autoimmune Metaplastic Atrophic Gastritis, it is safe to conclude that pernicious anemia is a risky consequence of Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Abated count of stomach cells can be labeled as a crucial cause of the disorder. These cells in the stomach lining help produce intrinsic factor (IF). This substance in turn amps up the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B-12. The occurrence of chronic swelling in the stomach lining bars it from secreting essential hydrochloric acid and pepsin. Both play a major role in breaking down food and speeding up metabolism. Failing to secrete these enzymes activate production of antibodies in the system. This is quite baneful as it naturally destroys parietal cells, intrinsic factor or even both.

Dietary Requisites

What’s important to note that food items like animal protein, poultry, dairy items, soy-rich products, and eggs are opulent sources of Vitamin B-12. Even shellfish, except for seaweed carries rich amounts of the vitamin. Failing to stick to a diet including the above-mentioned products could hike up one’s chances of being targeted with pernicious anemia.

Ill Effects of Pills

Medicines of various types, catering to the treatment of other disorders sometimes cast a not-so-desirable spell on the body. Deficiency of vitamin B-12 is one such aftermath. Painkillers like Ibuprofen, contraceptive pills, Primidone or Pregabalin to cure epilepsy, Colchicine to treat gout and Metformin, commonly prescribed as an effective drug for type 2 diabetes are examples of such medicines. Do not straight-away refrain from it to stay clear of being a subject of pernicious anemia. Always consult a doctor and ensure proper diagnosis before altering your medicinal routine.

Parasites thriving in the system eats up a good portion, almost 80% of B12 in a human body. From fish tapeworm to beaver fever, each of these parasites is very ruinous.

Common symptoms of the disorder:

Aggravated Complications:

If the condition is not reckoned immediately and followed up with proper diagnosis and treatment, perilous spin-offs might pop-up right after. These could include:

  • Sudden loss of memory
  • Stiffness and inelasticity in the muscles also termed as spasticity.
  • Continually amplifying lesions in the spinal cord.
  • Unstable motion pattern
  • Numb arms and unresponsive limbs, also known as peripheral neuropathy.

Before delving deep and learning about the possible treatment options, it should be worthy to gain insight on megaloblastic anemia as well.

What is megaloblastic anemia and how is it associated with pernicious anemia?

Starting off by categorizing pernicious anemia as a type of macrocytic anemia isn’t incorrect. Wondering what macrocytes imply? Well, in terms of a layman, abnormal large sized red blood cells are known as macrocytes. The dearth of vitamin B-12 in the system paves way for these unusual gigantic sized red blood cells. These cells thrive in the bone marrow where they are created and are unable to circulate in the system. As an aftermath, there happens to be a serious cut-down of oxygen transportation in the bloodstream. Pretty much explains what causes such extreme fatigue in the body. Just like pernicious anemia, megaloblastic anemia is also caused due to folate deficiency, commonly referred as vitamin B-12. In fact, pernicious anemia is a form of megaloblastic anemia.

Diagnosing Procedures – Pernicious vs Megaloblastic Anemia:

To diagnose pernicious anemia, certified health professionals stick to options like:

  1. Tests revealing blood count – A thorough blood test is performed to monitor ratios of iron and B-12 in the blood serum. This also involves a vitamin B-12 deficiency test. If the reported deficiency on diagnosis, other treatment measures are carried out.
  2. IF deficiency tests – Such tests are done to track the scores of intrinsic factor in the system. Blood samples are collected and tested to figure the count of antibodies against essential intrinsic factor.
  3. Biopsy – In adverse cases, doctors recommend getting a biopsy of stomach cells done. This helps in figuring the extent of damage caused in the stomach lining.

Identifying megaloblastic anemia slightly differs in approach. The steps involve:

  1. CBC or Complete Blood Count – Counts of blood cells and appearance of the same can be checked using this test. If traces of vitamin deficiency and folate deficiency is figured, more tests will be conducted for reassurance.
  2. Schilling Test – It is again a blood test, strictly done to analyze your body’s ability to soak up Vitamin B-12. The procedure is a little upgraded and paired with urine tests for accurate reports. A small portion of radioactive Vitamin B-12 supplement will need to be consumed before collecting a urine sample for further diagnosis. Post this stage, another supplement complimented with proteins enriched of an intrinsic factor will have to be consumed. Urine samples are again collected and send for analysis. Based on the comparison of reports, the doctor follows up with necessary treatments.

Treatment Routines:

To cure the former condition of pernicious anemia, Vitamin B-12 injections are mostly prescribed. During the initial few weeks of treatment, patients might be injected daily or weekly based on the adversity of the condition. Physical activities during the span would be restricted unless levels of vitamin B-12 scores up. Once the ratios are decent, tests are done to analyze the recent counts and injections are then altered with B-12 enriched supplements.

Treating megaloblastic anemia, on the other hand, focuses more on dietary changes. Foods responsible for scaling up folic acid levels are suggested for consumption. Peanuts, lentils, oranges and green vegetables for instance. However, if conditions of MTFHR mutations spring up, patients are mostly advised to take methyl folate. This helps in abating risks of folate deficiency.

P.S: Every treatment module must be proceeded after running thorough tests by certified professionals and prescribed by the same.

Long-term outlook for pernicious and megaloblastic anemia

Pernicious anemia might take quite a long duration to be treated. Depending on the condition, it might even call for a life-long treatment routine. However, screening and curing are imperative. Leaving the condition unmonitored can cause serious consequences of nerve damage, problems in the digestive tract and something lethal and baneful as gastric cancer.

Patients with megaloblastic anemia respond well to medications. It is treatable if the condition is diagnosed early. However, the condition aggravates and steps up to the second level, pernicious anemia is what these convalescents will be dealing with.