Megaloblastic macrocytic anemia
Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues. There are many types of anemia.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia is a low red blood cell count due to a lack (deficiency) of vitamin B12.
Your body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells. In order to provide vitamin B12 to your cells:
A lack of vitamin B12 may be due to dietary factors, including:
Certain health conditions can make it difficult for your body to absorb enough vitamin B12. They include:
You may not have symptoms. Symptoms may be mild.
Symptoms can include:
If you have low vitamin B12 level for a long time, you can have nerve damage. Symptoms of nerve damage include:
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may reveal problems with your reflexes.
Tests that may be done include:
Other procedures that may be done include:
Treatment depends on the cause of B12 deficiency anemia.
The goal of treatment is to increase your vitamin B12 level.
Your provider will also recommend that you eat a variety of foods.
People with this type of anemia often do well with treatment.
Long-term vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage. This may be permanent if you do not start treatment within 6 months of when your symptoms begin.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia most often responds well to treatment. It will likely get better when the underlying cause of the deficiency is treated.
A woman with a low B12 level may have a false positive Pap smear. This is because vitamin B12 deficiency affects the way certain cells (epithelial cells) in the cervix look.
Call your provider if you have any of the symptoms of anemia.
You can prevent anemia caused by a lack of vitamin B12 by eating a well-balanced diet.
Shots of vitamin B12 can prevent anemia after surgeries known to cause vitamin B12 deficiency.
Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can reduce or prevent complications related to a low vitamin B12 level.
Antony AC. Megaloblastic anemias. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 39.
Bunn HF. Approach to the anemias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 158.
Perez DL, Murray ED, Price BH. Depression and psychosis in neurological practice. In: Daroff RB, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 10.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/19/2018
Reviewed By: Richard LoCicero, MD, private practice specializing in Hematology and Medical Oncology, Longstreet Cancer Center, Gainesville, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2020 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.