Who is most at risk from developing Pernicious Anaemia?
Pernicious Anaemia is often considered to be a disease that affects the elderly. And whilst it is true that many elderly people do suffer from the disease it is a disease that is diagnosed at all ages. The survey of our 889 of our members revealed the following:
The ages of respondents at the time of diagnosis of PA varied from less than 10 years (4 individuals) to greater than 80 years (12 individuals). The most frequent age at diagnosis was 41–50 years (228 individuals).
Our youngest member is 18 months old and our oldest is 99 (and soon to reach her 100th birthday). It seems to be the case than most elderly patients have developed the disease because of age related gastric atrophy whilst younger patients tend to have the classic autoimmune Pernicious Anaemia caused by either not producing any Intrinsic Factor or producing an antibody that attacks and destroys any intrinsic factor that has been produced.
Of the 889 respondents to our survey 721 were female and 168 were male. This works out at a ratio of just over 4:1. This is also the ratio of our female to male members as shown by the database. However, as females are more likely to join patient support groups and are far more happy to discuss their health problems we cannot say that females are four times more likely to develop the condition. All that we can say is that Pernicious Anaemia more prevalent in females than men. No firm data exists as to the exact proportion.
Very strict Vegans who eat no animal products (meat, fish & dairy) are at risk of developing B12 Deficiency due to their diet. However, most vegans and strict vegetarians are aware of this risk and so take vitamin supplements to prevent them developing any deficiency. Laver Bread (a Welsh delicacy made from seaweed) does contain decent levels of B12 and there are traces of the vitamin in some mushrooms.
There is a strong family link with Pernicious Anaemia. It is important that you tell your doctor about any relations who have been diagnosed with Pernicious Anaemia and this is especially true if your B12 test results show that you are above the threshold used to define any deficiency yet you have many of the symptoms of the disease. Of the 889 respondents to our survey 135 had a parent with PA. Other reported family members with the disorder included a grandparent (130), a sibling (54), a child (20), an uncle or aunt (83) and a cousin (33). That means that nearly a half of respondents had a family member who had been diagnosed with the disease.
Because of the current problems with the diagnosis of Pernicious Anaemia it is often the case that patients will be diagnosed as having some other medical condition before eventually being diagnosed with PA. Common misdiagnoses include Depression, Anxiety, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Myalgic Encephalopathy – ME) and Hypochondriasis (being a hypochondriac).
If you are suffering from Pernicious Anaemia then unfortunately it is likely that you will not only suffer from other autoimmune diseases but other conditions that are not caused by autoimmunity (tinnitus for example). According to the survey here is a list of other frequently reported conditions associated with Pernicious Anaemia with the percentage of patients reporting this co-condition given in brackets:
Tinnitus (34%), Psoriasis, Eczema or Acne (28%), Folic acid deficiency (23%), Arrhythmia (21%), Hypothyroidism (19%), Vitiligo (patchy skin depigmentation) (13%), Rheumatoid Arthritis (8%), Diabetes Mellitus (6%), Coeliac disease (6%), Previous Helicobacter pylori infection (5%), Psoriatic Arthritis (4%), Hyperthyroidism (3%), Hyperparathyroidism (1%), Gastrectomy (1%), Multiple Sclerosis (0.2%) and Gastric Cancer (0.1%).
It is important to be aware that if you are being treated for Pernicious Anaemia then this should never be stopped or reduced during pregnancy.
Another myth about Pernicious Anaemia is that it only affects white fair-haired people with blue eyes. This is not the case and anyone can develop the disease.