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How Is Pernicious Anemia Treated?

Doctors treat pernicious anemia by replacing the missing vitamin B12 in the body. People who have pernicious anemia may need lifelong treatment.

The goals of treating pernicious anemia include:

  • Preventing or treating the anemia and its signs and symptoms
  • Preventing or managing complications, such as heart and nerve damage
  • Treating the cause of the pernicious anemia (if a cause can be found)

Specific Types of Treatment

Pernicious anemia usually is easy to treat with vitamin B12 shots or pills.

If you have severe pernicious anemia, your doctor may recommend shots first. Shots usually are given in a muscle every day or every week until the level of vitamin B12 in your blood increases. After your vitamin B12 blood level returns to normal, you may get a shot only once a month.

For less severe pernicious anemia, your doctor may recommend large doses of vitamin B12 pills. A vitamin B12 nose gel and spray also are available. These products may be useful for people who have trouble swallowing pills, such as older people who have had strokes.

Your signs and symptoms may begin to improve within a few days after you start treatment. Your doctor may advise you to limit your physical activity until your condition improves.

If your pernicious anemia is caused by something other than a lack of intrinsic factor, you may get treatment for the cause (if a cause can be found). For example, your doctor may prescribe medicines to treat a condition that prevents your body from absorbing vitamin B12.

If medicines are the cause of your pernicious anemia, your doctor may change the type or dose of medicine you take. Infants of strict vegetarian mothers may be given vitamin B12 supplements from birth.

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April 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.