As you may know, Pernicious Anemia causes destructive effects if you don’t treat its signs and symptoms early enough. But what actually causes Pernicious Anemia in first place? What is the source of this cruel disease? For start, we do know this:
Pernicious Anemia primarily affects people of northern European ancestry. It’s rare in children and infants. Onset typically occurs after age 35, and incidence increases with age. It affects about 2% of people older than age 60.PROFESSIONAL GUIDE TO DISEASES.
But what’s actually behind it? Pernicious Anemia results from a deficiency of vitamin B12 caused by the body being unable to absorb the vitamin. This most often is the result of auto-immune attacks on the stomach. Let’s see what that means.
The True Pernicious Anemia Causes
When you ask what vitamin deficiency causes Pernicious Anemia. you have to go deep to the core. B12 deficiency is just a side effect, a symptom if you will, not the cause of PA. At its heart, Pernicious anemia is caused by a lack of ability to absorb B12 through the stomach. And that happens, as we said, mainly because of autoimmune attacks. Now…
Autoimmune conditions happen when your immune system — your body’s defense against intruders — creates antibodies that attack your own healthy cells. In Pernicious Anemia, those are antibodies that attack either Intrinsic Factor (IF), a protein needed for the absorption of B12, or the parietal cells in the stomach that create it in first place.
Only when B12 combines with Intrinsic Factor can the B12 move to the ileum of the small intestine for absorption. In the case of Pernicious Anemia, there’s not enough Intrinsic Factor to move and absorb the B12. This is why the only treatment to bypass that defect are B12 shots straight to the blood stream, which PA patients need for life.
Why do autoimmune attacks occur in first place?
We’re not sure 100%. Some leading scientists have put forward the idea that the main cause of autoimmune disorders is leaky gut. We do know that some compounds, like gluten, are harmful to the lining of the gut. To see a study that shows how diet can affect Inflammatory Bowel Disease, another autoimmune condition, check out our PA diet page. If leaky gut is indeed the leading cause, then this diet should at least help it heal.
There’s then of course your inborn predisposition to develop autoimmune reactions in first place. Pernicious Anemia mainly affects older people of northern European descent, even more so when they have a family history of autoimmune conditions.
Other Pernicious Anemia Causes?
Weight loss surgery (gastrectomy) may obliterate many of the parietal cells and lead to a condition that mimics Pernicious Anemia, where you don’t have enough Intrinsic Factor. That’s dangerous, because unlike classic Pernicious Anemia, your tests may not show any antibodies to help establish the diagnosis of Pernicious Anemia.
Did you know?
The malabsorption of B12 can also occur in the small intestines, after Intrinsic Factor had moved the B12 in there. And even though in that case you still can’t make use of ingested B12, it is not Pernicious Anemia, and it is curable.
What causes malabsorption in the small intestines? Often other things that eat your B12 before your body can absorb it. It can be bacteria or tapeworm infection (eating undercooked, infected fish can cause it). On a similar note, laughing gas and other medicines are also known for depleting B12 levels.
What Causes Pernicious Anemia In Children?
When it comes to small children, what is Pernicious Anemia caused by? PA does not usually appear until the age of of 30. Rarely, though, babies are born with Congenital Pernicious Anemia, an inherited disorder — with serious consequences if not treated right away — where their bodies can’t produce Intrinsic Factor.
No matter what your Pernicious Anemia cause is, when you don’t have Intrinsic Factor you’re going to have to inject B12 for life. Otherwise, the myelin layer around your nerves may be strip off completely. That’s why PA patients see B12 shots as lifesavers.