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Pernicious Anemia: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

What is the treatment? How is the treatment done? Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?) Who is not eligible for the treatment? Are there any side effects? What are the post-treatment guidelines? How long does it take to recover? What is the price of the treatment in India? Are the results of the treatment permanent? What are the alternatives to the treatment?

What is the treatment?

Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia

How is the treatment done?

Anemia is an ailment where the body suffers from an insufficient number of red blood cells or hemoglobin. If hemoglobin count is low in a person’s blood, the passage of oxygen to the tissues of the body is impaired. Generally, a man having hemoglobin level less than 13.5 gram/100ml and a woman having a hemoglobin level less than 12 gram/100ml are categorized to be anemic. Pernicious anemia is a condition where the bigger, immature and nucleated cells called megaloblasts do not perform the functions of the red blood cells but circulate in the blood. Pernicious is a term that means deadly or injurious and the condition came to be denoted by this adjective as up until the 1920s, people suffering from this condition died.

Pernicious anemia and the Vitamin B-12 deficiency anemia is not the same thing. Pernicious anemia is one form of vitamin B-12 deficiency that occurs due to an autoimmune process. Pernicious anemia is a form of megaloblastic anemia and this condition means the existence of abnormally large red blood cells in the blood. These megaloblasts are produced from the bone marrow when the levels of Vitamin B-12 or folic acid are low.

Pernicious anemia is generally diagnosed by performing a thorough physical examination and also by checking the medical history of the patient concerned. There are a number of laboratory tests too that can help to diagnose pernicious anemia. Primarily, the treatment of pernicious anemia involves restoring the supply of Vitamin B-12 in the person’s body.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Lack of vitamin B-12 is the primary cause of pernicious anemia. So to treat this condition, a person needs to intake a lot of vitamin B-12. So a person suffering from pernicious anemia should consume dairy products, shellfish, eggs, meat, poultry, nutritional supplements and fortified soy, rice milks and nuts.

Pernicious anemia can be treated in a two-part process: it requires the doctor to treat the existing vitamin B-12 deficiency and then he/she will also check if the person is suffering from iron deficiency or not. The treatment for pernicious anemia generally involves administration of vitamin B-12 injections which are gradually reduced over time, blood tests to determine vitamin B-12 and iron levels in blood serum and further blood tests to monitor replacement treatments.

When treatment is started with Vitamin B-12 injections, they are administered daily or weekly until the Vitamin B-12 levels return close to normal. After the Vitamin B-12 levels reach optimum levels, a person will then require to get a Vitamin shot only once every month. However, during this treatment, a person may be advised by a doctor to limit his/her physical activities. The injections can be administered by the person getting the shots himself/herself or he/she can take the help of a registered nurse. A person may have to take regular doses of B-12 supplements in the form of pills, nasal gels or sprays instead of injections after the person’s B-12 levels are normal.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Lack of vitamin B-12 is the primary cause of pernicious anemia. So to treat this condition, a person needs to intake a lot of vitamin B-12. So a person suffering from pernicious anemia should consume dairy products, shellfish, eggs, meat, poultry, nutritional supplements and fortified soy, rice milks and nuts.

A person suffering from some or most of the symptoms of pernicious anemia is eligible for treatment. The symptoms include chest pain, headaches, weight loss and weakness. The neurological symptoms that a person suffering from rare cases of pernicious anemia may suffer from are stiffness and tightness of the muscles, peripheral neuropathy, memory loss, unsteady gait and progressive lesions of the spinal cord. A person is also eligible when he/she has been diagnosed by a registered medical practitioner to be suffering from such.

Are there any side effects?

Lack of vitamin B-12 is the primary cause of pernicious anemia. So to treat this condition, a person needs to intake a lot of vitamin B-12. So a person suffering from pernicious anemia should consume dairy products, shellfish, eggs, meat, poultry, nutritional supplements and fortified soy, rice milks and nuts.

There are a number of tests that help to determine whether a suffering from pernicious anemia or not. The different tests include: Vitamin B-12 deficiency test, biopsy, Intrinsic factor deficiency test and a complete blood count test. If a medical practitioner has not diagnosed a person to be suffering from pernicious anemia after conducting these tests, that person is not eligible for treatment.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

The less-serious side-effects of Vitamin B-12 injections include: fever, joint pain, itching or rash, pain, swelling, irritation or redness in the area where the injection was given, nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach and headache, weakness and dizziness. The side-effects of using Vitamin B-12 pills are swelling, nervousness, anxiousness, itching, headache and uncontrollable movements.

How long does it take to recover?

Pernicious anemia is an auto-immune disease that cannot be prevented. A person suffering from this disease may require treatment throughout his/her life. However, the person should increase the intake of eggs, poultry, shellfish, dairy products, nutritional supplements and fortified soy, nut and rice milks that are rich in Vitamin B-12.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Without treatment, pernicious anemia can be a permanent ailment and even cause death. So, life-long treatment is required to deal with this disease. Hence, the recovery time for pernicious is actually quite high. Even if a person’s Vitamin B-12 levels approach the normal levels after taking injections, he will have to be on Vitamin pills for a very long time.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

One injection of Vitamin B-12 costs Rs 1276 approximately. The cost of the treatment will depend on how frequently and for how long the person is required to take the medication. An entire container of vitamin B12 tablets is available within a price range of Rs 599 – Rs 2844. Vitamin B12 sprays can be obtained within a price range of Rs 1595.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

The results are not permanent as pernicious anemia is an auto-immune disease that is when body’s own immune system damages its own tissues. Thus, it is of utmost importance for a person suffering from pernicious anemia to continue with his/her treatment throughout his/her life. Sometimes conditions like gastrointestinal diseases and gastrointestinal surgery can cause pernicious anemia in a person.

Popular Questions & Answers

Vitamin B 12 levels are very low. How can it be improved? Is it case of pernicious anemia?

MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
General Physician, Kanpur
Vit B12 def. Can lead to megaloblastic anemia Pernicious anemia is caused by folic acid def. If you are a vegetarian there are high chances of developing it but they are treatable.

Is there any known cases of pernicious anaemia and what's the sure way of diagnosis. What symptoms should the patient look for?

C.S.C, D.C.H, M.B.B.S
General Physician, Alappuzha
Common causes include a weakened stomach lining or an auto-immune condition. Symptoms include fatigue and weakness. Untreated pernicious anaemia can cause heart and nerve damage. Treatment involves vitamin B-12 shots or pills.
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