B12 Deficiency and why we chose the PA Society as our Charity of the Year

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To coincide with our 10 year anniversary, our team chose a charity of the year. For 2020/21, our team voted for the Pernicious Anaemia (PA) Society. Over the next 12 months we'll be raising essential and much needed funds for the PA Society.

What is Pernicious Anaemia (B12 Deficiency)?

This post aims to highlight the causes of Pernicious Anaemia (B12 Deficiency), some of the symptoms sufferers can expect and what treatment consists of.

Causes

When it comes to B12 Deficiency there's no one size fits all as to the cause of it. But the common causes are:

  • Stomach surgery where part of the stomach has been removed
  • Having an autoimmune issue where your antibodies kill the intrinsic factor
    • Intrinsic factor is what takes the vitamin across the cell wall and into the blood-stream. Tests for this can be inaccurate and produce false positives.
  • Veganism
    • B12 is usually found in red meat and dairy, a lack of this can lead to dietary deficiency.
  • Genetics
    • a family history of it.

For most sufferers, the exact cause is never identified, however if surgery and veganism are ruled out, then the only thing left that it can be attributed to is Pernicious Anaemia.

Symptoms

There are many, varied symptoms which go with B12 Deficiency, some of them are weird and wonderful. The following is an example provided by one of our employees who suffers with B12 Deficiency.

Symptoms I suffer from:

  • Fatigue
  • Issues with spatial awareness
  • Aphasia - having a word on the tip of your tongue but not being able to say it / saying the wrong word.
  • Short term memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Acid reflux
  • Irritability / short temper
  • Breathlessness
  • Brittle and flaky fingernails
  • Lack of energy
  • Muscle weakness

Symptoms I'm glad I don't get:

  • Full body pins and needles
  • Tinnitus
  • Blurred vision
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sore and red / yellow tongue
  • Mouth ulcers

So, you're probably wondering "Why the varied symptoms?"

The answer is quite simple actually.

B12 is used to repair and maintain the myelin sheath around the nerves.

The myelin what? The myelin sheath protects the nerves all over the body. Basically, if it gets damaged, you get nerve damage. The affected nerves can be anywhere in the body, hence the random symptoms. Think of it like taking the insulation off a power cord and wondering why the copper wire is short circuiting.

What's the treatment?

To begin with you get an injection every other day until you've had 5 (takes about a fortnight), or until you're no longer seeing an improvement in your symptoms. Then you get one every 12 weeks (approx. 3 months) for the rest of your life.

That means you're cured?

Not by a long-shot. Unfortunately everyone uses a different amount of B12 so there's not a one size fits all. Some sufferers are fine on the 12 week program, others need it every 8 weeks, and some others feel as though they need it weekly in order to get by.

So why choose the Pernicious Anaemia Society as Charity of the Year?

The PA Society actively works with healthcare professionals to increase understanding of the condition and the problems faced by sufferers when they feel as though treatment is inadequate.

As well as this, they engage in research into the condition to try and improve the treatment options and better understand what can be done to help sufferers.

For more information on what they do, check out their What We Do page.

* Pernicious Anaemia (B12 deficiency) affects all sufferers differently. This post just highlights how it affects our one employee who suffers with the condition. Images taken from the Pernicious Anaemia Society website

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Siân Morris

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