Pernicious anemia is best characterized as a condition where the body is unable to produce enough healthy red blood cells due to an insufficient amount of vitamin B12. This disease is considered an autoimmune disease, which is where the body uses its immune system to attack and damage its own healthy tissues. In this case, the immune system targets the intrinsic factor or a protein the stomach makes that is needed to absorb vitamin B12. Pernicious anemia can result in permanent damage to organs and nerves if it is not treated in a timely manner.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
A vitamin B12 deficiency can happen for numerous different reasons, however, only certain causes of a lack of vitamin B12 can be considered increased risk factors for pernicious anemia. An individual who has a deficiency of vitamin B12 due to a surgical partial or full removal of the stomach will have an increased risk of pernicious anemia due to low intrinsic factor. In addition, individuals who have a vitamin B12 deficiency because they have had portions of their small intestine (where vitamin B12 is absorbed) surgically removed are also at an increased risk for pernicious anemia.
Individuals who have a disorder or disease of the intestinal tract that interferes with nutrient absorption and causes a deficiency of vitamin B12 also have a higher chance of developing this type of anemia. Furthermore, individuals who have a B12 vitamin deficiency due to a poor or vegetarian diet or due to the use of certain medications that interfere with proper absorption are both more likely to develop pernicious anemia.