Pernicious Anemia: Anemia caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency that is caused by a lack of intrinsic factor . Intrinsic factor is a glycoprotein made in the stomach that aids in the absorption of vitamin B12. The intrinsic factor protein normally attaches to the vitamin to facilitate its absorption. When this factor is missing, the body is unable to absorb vitamin B12 and a deficiency results that causes a deficit of red blood cells with symptoms of muscle weakness and neurological disturbances. Folate deficiency is a side effect since B12 is necessary to convert folate to its active form.
Lack of intrinsic factor can be the result of a defective gene or damage to the stomach which causes it to be unable to produce enough factor. The vitamin B12 deficiency that results can be treated with B12 injections, which bypass the problem of absorption in the gut. Since B12 deficiency and folate deficiency go hand in hand, it is extremely important for the correct diagnosis of pernicious anemia to be made, since if folate is given when it is actually B12 that is needed, the results can be dire, resulting in devastating neurological symptoms. Even though folate will clear up the anemia, B12 is essential to maintain the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibers. Without proper repair and maintenance of this protective sheath, permanent nerve damage, and eventually paralysis, can occur, beginning at the extremities and working inward to the spine. This is the "pernicious" or evil part of the anemia. Although folate will cure the blood symptoms, it will allow the nerve symptoms to progress unchecked.
This page created 22 Sep 2012 23:34
Last updated 01 Mar 2016 19:11