Vitamin B12 deficiency: Five signs you could have pernicious anaemia

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Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in the production of red blood cells, DNA and keeping the nerves healthy. Getting enough vitamin B12 is best gained through a diet rich in B12 foods and are best in animal products such as meat or cheese. When a person is lacking in the vitamin they could develop pernicious anaemia. What are the five warning signs that could mean you are at risk?

Feeling very tired

This is the most common symptom and occurs because the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to its various parts.

Heart palpitations

Having an abnormally rapid heartbeat could be a warning sign of pernicious anaemia.

Breathlessness

Having a decreased capacity for blood to carry oxygen leaves a person with a shortness of breath.

Headaches

In rare cases of pernicious anaemia, people may have neurological problems such as headaches.

Reduced appetite

A person may experience a loss of appetite and weight loss which could be a sign of pernicious anaemia.

International healthcare group, Bupa, explains: “Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune disease, caused by antibodies from your immune system attacking your own body tissue, which it mistakes as being foreign.

This causes inflammation in the lining of your stomach.

“Normally, a protein known as intrinsic factor, which is made in your stomach, attaches to the vitamin B12 released from the food you have eaten and then carries the vitamin through your bowel wall into your blood.

“If you have pernicious anaemia, the stomach cells that produce intrinsic factor may be damaged, meaning vitamin B12 can no longer be absorbed and a deficiency develops, leading to anaemia.”

Pernicious anaemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK. It’s an autoimmune condition that affects the stomach. The NHS said: “An autoimmune condition means your immune system, the body’s natural defence system that protects against illness and infection. 

“Pernicious anaemia cause your immune system to attack the cells in your stomach that produce the intrinsic factor, which means your body is unable to absorb vitamin B12.”

The exact cause of pernicious anaemia is unknown, but according to the official NHS website, it’s more common in women around 60 years of age, people with a family history of the condition and those with other autoimmune conditions, such as Addison’s disease or vitiligo.

If you suspect you may have any of these symptoms speak to your GP about the possible cause of it.

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