Megaloblastic anemia is a disorder with the blood. It is an anemic condition that involves red blood cells that are much larger than normal. Anemia is when there are not enough of the red blood cells in the blood. These cells are required when it comes to getting oxygen around the body, which helps the organs, tissues and muscles.
How Megaloblastic Anemia Occurs
The condition is linked to a lack of folic acid in the body or when there is not enough vitamin B12. These are two items that you can get from food or you can take supplements to help. However, there are other reasons why a person may develop this condition.
One of the most common reasons is linked to the abuse of alcohol. There are some drugs that can affect the body’s DNA, including chemotherapy – but this is a less common cause.
Other less common reasons behind the disease include some disorders that are genetic and problems like myelodysplastic syndrome and leukemia.
Symptoms of Megaloblastic Anemia
Instead of coming out with symptoms linked to anemia, most people will notice symptoms of B12 deficiency with megaloblastic anemia. The most common symptom is the nervous system and this is something that is usually noticed before any signs of anemia. The symptoms of problems with the nervous symptoms vary from person to person.
Some will notice some tingling or numbness in the extremities. Others will notice clumsiness and problems with coordination.
Most people will find that the symptoms affect both sides of their bodies and usually in their legs instead of the arms. As the deficiency goes undiagnosed, there are chances that severe signs will appear, which may include incontinence and even paraplegia.
Because the problems with low amounts of vitamin B12 are most commonly noticed, the common symptoms of anemia may be ignored or not noticed. However, these are very important to be able to diagnose the problem, including problems with tiredness and pale skin since the oxygen is not able to pass around the body enough.
The heart, lungs and brain will be affected from the problems with the red blood cell count, which leads to murmurs in the heart, memory problems, shortness of breath and possibly heart failure.
There are times when patients are diagnosed with the condition with no symptoms at all. It takes years for a B12 deficiency to occur, which means that the condition may be diagnosed first – this is usually if there are other medical problems linked to it.
Diagnosing the Condition
The most common way of diagnosing megaloblastic anemia is through a blood test. This is something that will be done from your doctor and the results will be used to help with the decision over any further tests that may be needed. A test on the blood cell count is needed to help to diagnose a problem with the amount of red blood cells.
The blood tests will also help to determine whether there is a low count of B12. This is something that will take years to show with symptoms and the tests may come back showing the deficiency sooner.
There will also be checks on the levels of folic acid in your system. These are often low when it comes to low amounts of B12. The levels of your iron in the system is also checked for, which will lead to the problem of anemia.
There are some other tests, which will look into the amount of B12 that your body is able to absorb. If your body cannot absorb the vitamin, then it will link to the deficiency. However, this is one test that is not used that much anymore and is called the Schilling test.
Treating the Disease
The good news is that this is something that can be treated relatively easily. The main aim is to increase the amount of vitamin B12 in your system. However, any underlying conditions will need to be checked for first because this will need to be treated to help with the deficiency of vitamin B12.
The most common form of treatment is an intramuscular injection, commonly known as a shot. This will put the vitamin directly into your muscles and is usually done each day for one week. After that, it is usually given just each week for four weeks and then once a month. Many people will notice that the symptoms disappear after just a few days.