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Pernicious Anemia (Vitamin B-12 Deficiency) (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care for Pernicious Anemia (Vitamin B-12 Deficiency)

It is appropriate to seek medical care if a person has any of the neurological symptoms described above or any of the symptoms of anemia. All of the symptoms of pernicious anemia can be caused by a number of other conditions, and it is important to identify the exact cause of a person's symptoms to ensure proper and effective treatment.

Exams and Tests for Pernicious Anemia (Vitamin B-12 Deficiency)

As with any medical problem, the first step in the evaluation is a thorough history and physical examination. Other diagnostic tests that can help establish the diagnosis of pernicious anemia or rule out other causes of the symptoms include:

  • a complete blood cell count (CBC) to establish whether anemia is present and to further characterize the type of anemia;
  • examination of a blood smear (peripheral smear) under a microscope, often performed in association with a CBC;
  • other blood tests, for example tests to measure vitamin B-12 levels, auto-antibodies to IF or to stomach lining cells (parietal cells), blood iron and iron-binding capacity levels, folate levels (which can also be low when vitamin B-12 levels are low);
  • tests to measure blood levels of methylmalonic acid (MMA) or homocysteine, both of which may be sensitive indicators of vitamin B-12 deficiency;
  • an elevated MMA level is seen with B-12 deficiency, whereas elevated homocysteine levels are characteristic of both B-12 and folate deficiencies;
  • bone marrow aspiration or bone marrow biopsy may be recommended in some cases to examine for the presence of bone marrow disorders.
Last Reviewed 12/16/2015

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