Who is most at risk
for 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, Pernicious Anaemia is diagnosed at all ages.
The age at the time of diagnosis of PA varied from less than 10 years (7 individuals) to greater than 80 years (3 individuals). The most frequent age at diagnosis was 41–50 years (166 individuals).
There is a strong family link in Pernicious Anaemia. It is important that you tell your doctor about any relations who have been diagnosed with Pernicious Anaemia. 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 1069 respondents 186 had a parent with PA. Other reported family members with PA included a grandparent (187), a sibling (73), a child (25), an uncle or aunt (110) and a cousin (43). That means that over 40% of respondents have a family member who has been diagnosed with the disease.
81% of the respondents to our survey are female and 19% are male. This works out at a ratio of just over 4:1. This is also the ratio of our female to male members. However, as women are more likely to join patient support groups and are more happy to discuss their health problems we cannot say that women are four times more likely to develop the condition. All that we can say is that Pernicious Anaemia is more prevalent in women than men. No firm data exists as to the exact proportion.
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 almost half of the respondents were diagnosed with another condition before being diagnosed with PA. Most mentioned were: stress, menopause, anaemia, iron deficiency, underactive thyroid, depression and anxiety.
Other frequently reported conditions associated with Pernicious Anaemia or coinciding with PA 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, (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%).
A myth about Pernicious Anaemia is that it only affects white fair-haired people with blue eyes. This is not the case, Pernicious Anaemia affects people from all ethnic groups.
When to test for B12 deficiency?
- (Macrocytic) anaemia
- Neurological/neuropsychiatric symptoms: tingling, problems with remembering words, brain fog, sensory loss, dementia, psychosis, paranoia, depression, mood swings, behavioural changes, etc.
- Symptoms as glossitis, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, see more
- Diabetes, Auto-immune thyroid disease, Crohn’s disease, MS, pancreatic insufficieny, gastric bypass, coeliac disease
- Use of medication : metformin, ppi’s, Questran, colchicine
- Vegan/strict vegetarian diet