If left untreated, pernicious anemia can lead to problems in the cardiovascular system and nervous system. This disease may also increase the risk of developing fractures and gastric cancer.
Pernicious anemia can be diagnosed in infants and in adults. Adult type pernicious anemia is more common and is typically diagnosed in patients around 60 years old. This disease is also more common in women than in men. People who have multiple myeloma, a type of cancer, are likely to be diagnosed with pernicious anemia.
Causes of pernicious anemia
The immune system attacks the cells lining the stomach. These cells lining the stomach produce intrinsic factor, which is necessary for vitamin B12 absorption.
Surgically removing part of the stomach and the small intestine can significantly reduce the cells producing intrinsic factor.
Genetic Disorder causing pernicious anemia
In rare instances, children inherit a disease that impedes the stomach from producing intrinsic factor.
Bacteria in the small intestine
When there is too much bacteria in the small intestine, they may feed on the vitamin B12 before the body absorbs it. This is more common in elderly people.
Diseases that interfere with vitamin B12 absorption
People with HIV may develop pernicious anemia. Celiac disease can also damage the part of the small intestine where vitamin B12 is absorbed.
Some medicines, especially antibiotics and some diabetics medication, can cause a disturbance in the bacterial growth in the small intestines which can prevent proper absorption of vitamin B12.