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Pernicious Anemia


Overview :

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, plays an important role in the development of red blood cells. It is found in significant quantities in liver, meats, milk and milk products, and legumes. During the course of the digestion of foods containing B12, the B12 becomes attached to a substance called intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is produced by parietal cells that line the stomach. The B12-intrinsic factor complex then enters the intestine, where the vitamin is absorbed into the bloodstream. In fact, B12 can only be absorbed when it is attached to intrinsic factor.

In pernicious anemia, the parietal cells stop producing intrinsic factor. The intestine is then completely unable to absorb B12. So, the vitamin passes out of the body as waste. Although the body has significant amounts of stored B12, this will eventually be used up. At this point, the symptoms of pernicious anemia will develop.

Pernicious anemia is most common among people from northern Europe and among African Americans. It is far less frequently seen among people from southern Europe and Asia. Pernicious anemia occurs in equal numbers in both men and women. Most patients with pernicious anemia are older, usually over 60. Occasionally, a child will have an inherited condition that results in defective intrinsic factor. Pernicious anemia seems to run in families, so that anyone with a relative diagnosed with the disease has a greater likelihood of developing it as well.




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