What Is Pernicious Anemia?

Pernicious anemia is a rare type of anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. This condition occurs when the stomach fails to produce the intrinsic factor which is necessary to absorb vitamin B12 from the food. Anemia is a condition in which the body doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.

When an individual is affected by pernicious anemia, the body fails to produce enough healthy red blood cells due to a deficiency of vitamin B12. Without enough of this important vitamin, the body is unable to make enough healthy red blood cells, leading to anemia and other symptoms.

Symptoms of Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia commonly causes several signs and symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Sore tongue
  • Depression
  • Confusion

Most of the symptoms of pernicious anemia can be managed with a combination of medication, supplements, and lifestyle changes.


Pernicious anemia is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12. This occurs when a certain protein, called intrinsic factor, is not produced in the stomach. This factor is necessary for the body to absorb vitamin B12 from food sources. Without the intrinsic factor, the body cannot absorb enough vitamin B12, leading to a vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anemia.

Pernicious anemia can also be caused by autoimmune conditions, such as Graves' disease and Celiac disease. These conditions cause the body to attack and destroy the cells that produce intrinsic factor, leading to vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anemia.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor can diagnose pernicious anemia with a blood test that measures the amount of vitamin B12 in your body. You may also be asked to take a physical exam and complete other tests such as an MRI or CT scan.

The primary treatment for pernicious anemia is a vitamin B12 supplement. This is usually taken in the form of an injection, although oral supplements are available as well. People with pernicious anemia may also need to take a regular folic acid supplement, as this can help the body make healthy red blood cells.

In addition to medication, people with pernicious anemia should make lifestyle changes to help manage their condition. Incorporating regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress levels can all help to improve the symptoms of pernicious anemia.