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Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious Anemia is one of many different types of anemia.  Having anemia means that your body does not have enough red blood cells that are healthy.  Because of this the blood can not distribute oxygen properly to the cells in your body. 

Pernicious Anemia

This condition got it’s name over a century ago.  The word “pernicious” originates from the Latin word perniciousus, meaning from destruction or from violent death.  At that time the condition was fatal as no real treatments were available.  They did not know that the cause of pernicious anemia was lack of vitamin B12.

Don’t panic,  pernicious anemia is is no longer fatal if treated.  Fortunately it is easily treatable.  This is usually done with B12 vitamins or shots.

Pernicious anemia is basically the same thing as vitamin B12 deficiency anemia.  That said, the difference between the two is the actual cause of the vitamin B12 deficiency.   In pernicious anemia the anemia is caused by lack of vitamin B12.  In turn, the lack of vitamin B12 is caused by severe gastric atrophy.  That is a condition that stops your gastric cells from producing or secreting intrinsic factor.  Basically what happens is that your body destroys and stops making the cells in your stomach that help you absorb vitamin B12.  These cells are your intrinsic factor.

Pernicious anemia is treated the same way as vitamin B12 deficiency, with vitamin B12 shots or pills.  Unfortunately many people develop permanent nerve damage before they discover that they have the condition.  The nerve damage is usually minor, and is more of an annoyance then painful.  Having pernicious anemia does increase your chances of developing stomach cancer, so your doctor may be on the lookout for it and check you periodically.  In general, as long as they are getting proper treatment, people with pernicious anemia have a normal lifespan that is not affected by the pernicious anemia.

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5 Responses to “Pernicious Anemia”


  1. Tammie Gearhart

    I am 51, and recently diagnosed with Pernicious
    Anemia. My grandfather died from this around 60 years ago, but we were always told that it was a form of cancer. With that said, I know from my research that this disease can run in families. Can you possibly give me any concrete answer about this issue. My brother-in-law insists that unless it’s a dominant gene, it’s incorrect to assume that it it automatically a “family disease.” Thanks for your time and attention, and have a nice day! Tammie

  2. Jim Gearhart

    Hi, Tammie,
    Is Gearhart your own surname? My name is Jim Gearhart, and I’m awaiting results that could show I have pernicious anemia. Both my father and my grandfather had pernicious anemia. According to family lore, the men in this line of the Gearharts develop pernicious anemia in their late 40s, early 50s. I’m 44. I find it interesting we might share a name as well as a condition. Vitamin B12 shots have treated Dad’s condition successfully for years.

  3. Paula Boudreaux

    I need a question answered…My mother has dx of pernicious anemia and has been taking B12 injections for about a year. Over the last several months she had bronchitis, she has underlying COPD. Last week she felt so bad, I took her to ER and she was admitted with pneumonia. The ER doc stated she was “anemic”. Her hemaglobin was 8.
    The only treatment was an extra B12 shot. She was sent home (of course the pneumonia was treated) and is still having anemia symptoms, SOB, with extreme fatigue even at rest.
    My question is why would you not treat the anemia with something other than the B12? Packed red blood cells, Procrit…
    Thank you,
    Paula

  4. B12 Anemia

    Paula,
    Unfortunately I am not a medical doctor and your questions need to be answered by a professional. If you are not happy with the treatment your mother is getting please get a second opinion.

  5. Tammie Gearhart

    To Jim Gearhart: Sorry, Jim, Gearhart is not my maiden name. My maiden name is Valari, which is Italian, not German. Sorry also to hear that this is a multi-generational issue. I’ve been doing pretty well with iron supplementation and B-12 shots. Hope you are doing well.