When your body can’t make enough healthy red blood cells because it lacks vitamin B-12, you have pernicious anemia (PA). A long time ago, this disorder was believed to be fatal. These days it’s easily treated with B-12 pills or shots. With treatment, you’ll be able to live without symptoms.
Your body needs plenty of healthy red blood cells. These are what carry oxygen to every part of your body. Without them, your tissues and organs don’t work like they should.
Vitamin B-12 is a crucial part of this process. If your body doesn’t absorb enough from the food you eat, your red blood cells will be too big to travel well through your body. Because of this, your body will make less of them. And the cells that are made will die off sooner than they should.
The reason this happens is often due to the lack of a stomach protein called “intrinsic factor” (IF). Your body can’t absorb vitamin B-12 without it.
Some health issues make you more likely to have PA. These include:
Autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes
Having part or all of your stomach or intestine taken out
Some medicines, like antacids or drugs that treat type 2 diabetes, can make it harder for your body to absorb enough B-12.
A strict vegetarian diet puts you at risk for PA too, since you won’t be eating foods that are rich in B-12 like eggs, milk, and poultry.
Also, if someone else in your family has PA, your risk of having it goes up as well.