pernicious anemia


pernicious anemia
a severe anemia caused by the diminution or absence of stomach acid secretion, with consequent failure of the gastric mucosa to secrete the intrinsic factor necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12, characterized by a great reduction in the number of red blood cells and an increase in their size.
[1870-75]

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Slow-developing disease in which vitamin B12 (see vitamin B complex) deficiency impairs red-blood-cell production.

It can result from a diet lacking in vitamin B12 or when intrinsic factor, a substance needed for intestinal absorption of B12, either is not produced by stomach cells or cannot bind to the vitamin. It causes weakness, waxy pallor, shiny tongue, and stomach, intestinal, and neurological problems. Its slow development can allow anemia to become very severe by the time of diagnosis. Monthly B12 injections into muscle soon reverses the anemia, but the injections must be continued for life.

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      disease in which the production of red blood cells (erythrocyte) (erythrocytes (erythrocyte)) is impaired as the result of the body's inability to absorb 12 (vitamin B12), which is necessary for red blood cells to mature properly in the bone marrow. Pernicious anemia is one of many types of anemia, a disease marked by a reduction in red blood cells or in the oxygen-carrying substance hemoglobin found in those cells. Symptoms of pernicious anemia include weakness, waxy pallor, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, unsteady gait, smooth tongue, gastrointestinal disturbances, and neurological problems. Pernicious anemia is in most cases associated with an inflammation of the stomach called autoimmune gastritis. An absence of hydrochloric acid in gastric secretions (achlorhydria) is also characteristic of pernicious anemia. The anemia may become severe before the disorder is diagnosed, because the vitamin deficiency develops very gradually.

      In pernicious anemia vitamin B12 is unavailable due to a lack of intrinsic factor, a substance responsible for intestinal absorption of the vitamin. In a healthy person intrinsic factor is produced by the parietal cells (parietal cell) of the stomach, the cells that also secrete hydrochloric acid. Intrinsic factor forms a complex with dietary vitamin B12 in the stomach. This complex remains intact, preventing degradation of the vitamin by intestinal juices, until it reaches the ileum of the small intestine, where the vitamin is released and absorbed into the body. When intrinsic factor is prevented from binding with vitamin B12 or when the parietal cells are unable to produce intrinsic factor, the vitamin is not absorbed and pernicious anemia results. This is believed to stem from an autoimmune reaction in which the malfunctioning immune system produces antibodies (antibody) against intrinsic factor and against the parietal cells.

      Without an adequate amount of vitamin B12, the body is unable to synthesize DNA properly. This in turn affects red blood cell production: the cells divide, but their nuclei remain immature. These cells, called megaloblasts, are for the most part destroyed in the bone marrow and are not released to the circulation. Some megaloblasts mature to become large red blood cells called macrocytes; they reach the circulation but function abnormally. A deficiency of white blood cells ( leukopenia) and of platelets ( thrombocytopenia) is also seen in the blood.

      Pernicious anemia occurs most often in persons older than 30 years of age, although a juvenile form of the disease does occur, usually in children younger than 3 years of age. The disease shows a familial tendency and is more common in individuals of northern European descent.

      Treatment involves a monthly intramuscular injection of vitamin B12 that must be continued for life. Most patients improve quickly, although neurological damage is seldom fully reversible and atrophy of the parietal cells and achlorhydria persist. Before the discovery of treatment in the 1920s, the modifier pernicious, although something of a misnomer today, was appropriate, since the disease was usually fatal.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pernicious anemia — Classification and external resources ICD 10 D51.0 ICD 9 281.0 …   Wikipedia

  • pernicious anemia — n. a form of anemia characterized by a gradual reduction in the number of the red blood cells, gastrointestinal and nervous disturbances, etc., due to a deficiency of vitamin B12 …   English World dictionary

  • Pernicious anemia — A blood disorder caused by inadequate vitamin B12 in the blood. Patients who have this disorder do not produce the substance in the stomach that allows the body to absorb vitamin B12. This substance is called intrinsic factor (IF). Pernicious… …   Medical dictionary

  • pernicious anemia — malignant anemia malignant anemia n. (Med.) A chronic progressive anemia of older adults, thought to result from a lack of intrinsic factor (a substance secreted by the stomach that is responsible for the absorption of vitamin B 12); also called… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pernicious anemia — noun a chronic progressive anemia of older adults; thought to result from a lack of intrinsic factor (a substance secreted by the stomach that is responsible for the absorption of vitamin B12) • Syn: ↑pernicious anaemia, ↑malignant anemia,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • pernicious anemia — see pernicious anaemia …   English dictionary

  • pernicious anemia — noun Date: 1874 a severe megaloblastic anemia that is marked by a progressive decrease in the number of red blood cells and by pallor, weakness, and gastrointestinal and nervous disturbances and is caused by malabsorption of vitamin B12 due to… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • pernicious anemia — noun A severe form of anemia caused by vitamin B insufficiency …   Wiktionary

  • pernicious anemia — per,nicious a nemia noun uncount MEDICAL a type of ANEMIA that can cause death if it is not treated …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • pernicious anemia — n. severe form of anemia affecting mostly older people …   English contemporary dictionary


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