Pernicious Anemia: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Pernicious anemia means that you do not have enough red blood cells. It happens when your body can't absorb vitamin B12 from food.

Your body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body. Vitamin B12 also helps your nerves work well.

Your doctor can treat this problem with vitamin B12 shots. You may also take vitamin B12 by pill or nasal spray.

With treatment, most anemia gets better in a few days. But if you have severe anemia, you may need a blood transfusion to give you red blood cells as quickly as possible.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about vitamin B12 shots, vitamin B12 pills, or a vitamin B12 nasal spray.
  • Eat a varied diet. Include foods with a lot of vitamin B12, such as eggs, milk, and meat.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are being treated. Alcohol can prevent the body from absorbing vitamin B12.
  • Eat foods that have folate (also called folic acid). This is another type of B vitamin. Foods with folate include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and fortified cereals.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have new or worse bleeding.
  • You are short of breath.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have numbness or tingling in your hands or feet.
  • You feel weaker or more tired.
  • You have trouble with balance or coordination.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.