Guide To Megaloblastic Anemia Symptoms

March 18, 2024

Megaloblastic anemia is a rare condition in which the patient's bone marrow produces abnormally large and structurally immature red blood cells. It can occur in either sex and affect patients of any racial or ethnic group. Megaloblastic anemia belongs to a class of disorders called the macrocytic anemias. While there are several different causes of megaloblastic anemia, the most common are nutritional deficiencies of either folate or vitamin B12. These vitamins help the body synthesize both DNA and some of the cells that eventually become blood cells. Megaloblastic anemia's symptoms can resemble those of many other disorders. The doctor will likely start by taking a medical history and performing a physical to rule out some other possible causes. Next comes a complete blood count if any kind of anemia is suspected.

Get to know some of the symptoms of megaloblastic anemia to watch for now.

Swollen Tongue

Megaloblastic anemia typically develops slowly, and the patient may not display any symptoms immediately, or even for a few years in some cases. A swollen tongue is one symptom of megaloblastic anemia. Typically, a swollen tongue occurs in megaloblastic anemia when the cause is one of the previously mentioned vitamin deficiencies. When vitamin B12 deficiency, the most common, is behind it, the tongue also typically appears quite fiery red and is sore. It is possible for lesions to occur as well. Glossitis may also develop, which means the patient's swollen tongue is likely smooth and shiny.

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Numbness And Tingling

Neurological symptoms, such as numbness and tingling in the extremities (hands and feet), are quite common when it comes to megaloblastic anemia. The numbness and tingling is often the result of insufficient blood flow to the hands and feet, which is why these sensations are often paired along with cold hands and feet. Pale or blue-tinged fingers and toes may also appear due to the lack of oxygen in these body parts. When numbness and tingling present as symptoms of megaloblastic anemia, the patient likely also has hypotension (low blood pressure), as it and these symptoms are quite commonly seen together.

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Abnormally Pale Skin

Abnormally pale skin is a characteristic symptom of most kinds of anemia, including megaloblastic anemia. It occurs in anemia as there is a lack of healthy red blood cells flowing through the body. In a healthy individual, red blood cells carry nutrients and oxygen throughout the body, including hemoglobin. This function is a major factor behind the pinkish skin color of Caucasian individuals. In megaloblastic anemia due to a deficiency in vitamin B12 or folate, the body cannot produce enough red blood cells, hence why the skin of patients is often quite pale compared to normal.

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Muscle Weakness

As mentioned previously, one of the symptoms of megaloblastic anemia, when a deficiency in vitamin B12 is involved, is numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. This is particularly linked to overall muscle weakness because the muscles are not getting the nutrients needed to function at their appropriate levels. The weakness in muscles puts patients at risk of losing their balance and having an overall unsteady gait. The patient's bones may also be weak, which means they could have more fractures than the average healthy individual.

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Increased And Chronic Fatigue

Increased and chronic fatigue is a symptom seen in many types of anemia, including megaloblastic anemia. It is important to note that, while fatigue is the most common physical symptom of megaloblastic anemia, because fatigue can be the result of many different conditions, if it is the only symptom, it is not enough for a diagnosis. Fatigue, when linked to megaloblastic anemia, is usually due to insufficient red blood cells, which we know carry oxygen throughout the body and provide energy.

Chronic or increased fatigue, of course, is not the same as simple tiredness after a night of poor sleep. With fatigue, the patient will feel quite sluggish and have very little energy or motivation to do much of anything. It becomes chronic when it persists for a prolonged period. Chronic fatigue syndrome is usually diagnosed after six months.

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