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B12-deficiency anemia: causes, symptoms and treatment

Until recently, this disease was considered as such  of the elderly people. But increasingly, young people become its victims. Why? The main (but not the only) reason is the fashion for veganism and environmentalism.

 

What is the danger of vitamin B12 deficiency?

 

B12 is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for the formation of blood cells: erythrocytes, leukocytes and platelets. In case of its lack, occurs B12-deficiency anemia. This pathology is accompanied by abnormalities in the processes of hematopoiesis, which can cause pathological changes in the body. It is manifested by a serious shortage of red blood cells, impaired functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system. As a rule, the disease can be suspected by changes in blood tests: this condition is characterized by a decrease in the level of hemoglobin, an increase in the volume of red blood cells due to the fact that vitamin B12 comes in insufficient quantity and / or is quickly consumed. If you do not take measures and do not compensate for the defect, the pathological process provokes bone marrow failure and hurts nerve tissue. If a nursing mother suffers from a B12 deficiency, then naturally the child will not get a vitamin - for him the consequences can be very outspoken.

 

The most obvious reason is the inadequate intake of it due to a reduction in the consumption of animal products. Vegetarians who may suffer from iron deficiency anemia due to a lack of meat in the diet, still do not have B12 deficiency if they allow themselves dairy products and eggs. Supporters of a strict vegan diet are losing both iron and vitamin B12. The problem is that traditionally the analysis at the B12 level is not done, the detected iron deficiency is considered the main and the only cause of anemia - all efforts are made to eliminate it. As a result, a person literally cannot live without medical  preparations, and anemia develops: after all, the deficiency of the hematopoietic vitamin has not been eliminated.

 

B12 is mostly found in cheese, eggs, beef liver, fish. If there is a genetic disposition toward B12-deficiency anemia, the vegan diet is strictly contraindicated. But even if it is not, people who follow such a diet should regularly be tested and be observed by a doctor. Even if everything is in order in the first year or two, sooner or later the problem will still be felt.

 

The first signs of deficiency are visually most often manifested by dry skin and hair loss. Unfortunately, even with a balanced diet, B12 deficiency can develop due to reduced absorption - for example, after operations on the stomach and intestines, with diseases such as Crohn's disease and others, diffusely affecting the intestine.  B12-deficient anemia may result in various autoimmune conditions (autoimmune thyroiditis), taking medications that interfere with the absorption or stability of the vitamin - these include often used in the treatment of diabetes metformin or drugs prescribed when there is an increased gastric acidity (such as ranitidine ). Therefore, when using these drugs, especially for a long time, doctors prescribe medical tests to control the level of vitamin B12 in the blood.

 

As we have already said, mostly the reason for suspicions lies in  changes in the clinical analysis of blood, so it makes sense to do it every year.

After an examination, the doctor may prescribe additional medical tests: general urine analysis and biochemical blood test. Biochemistry of blood is particularly important for diagnosis: some diseases, for example, B12-deficiency anemia and iron-deficiency anemia, have similar symptoms, but they can occur both simultaneously and absolutely independently of each other. The indications of the  level  of B12 and iron play the key role.

If there is suspicion of decreased absorption a doctor can prescribe gastroscopy, colonoscopy, ultrasound of the abdominal cavity.

 

Treatment means the delivery of an inadequate vitamin in an artificial way - mostly (especially if the cause of the deficit lies in poor digestibility) through injections. If the hemoglobin level is lower than 70 g / l, a red blood cell transfusion is recommended.

 

In parallel with compensatory therapy, it is necessary to eliminate the causes of B12-deficiency anemia: maintain the desired level of vitamin in the diet (fish, eggs, cheeses, liver), cure gastrointestinal diseases ...

 

The disease can be treated only with strict adherence to all the recommendations of the physician. The prognosis in most cases is favorable, but an important role is played by early diagnosis and timely treatment.

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