What is Megaloblastic Anaemia?
Before we understand Megaloblastic Anaemia, let us understand the underlying condition of anemia, of which it is a type. Anemia is a condition when your body doesnt have enough healthy blood cells to carry oxygen to the organs in your body. It is characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, cold feet and hands, etc. Several types of anemia have different underlying causes and symptoms. Megaloblastic means a condition when your bone marrow produces red blood cells that are unusually large. Known as megaloblasts, these cells also carry structural abnormalities i.e. they are not fully developed and are oval instead of being round. To understand Megaloblastic meaning, this condition causes your bone marrow to produce lesser than normal red blood cells that die earlier than their usual life expectancy of 120 days. Another characteristic of Megaloblastic Anaemia is that since these abnormal red blood cells are so large, that they are not able to normally exit the bone marrow and enter your bloodstream to perform their usual functions.
What are the symptoms of Megaloblastic Anaemia?
Megaloblastic Anaemia symptoms vary from person to person, while some people may remain asymptomatic in its early stage. Some of the most common Megaloblastic Anaemia symptoms include:
- Pale skin
- Swollen, smooth, or tender tongue
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness and tingling in feet and hands
- Difficulty walking
- Bleeding gums
Besides these physiological symptoms, Megaloblastic Anaemia symptoms also include changes in your moods. These include:
- Irritability and outburst of anger
- Frequently experiencing stress and anxiety
- Difficulty in concentrating
With time these symptoms may worsen especially due to the deficiency of vitamin B12 that causes nervous system damage. These severe symptoms include:
- Loss of memory
- Exhaustion without too much effort
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Numbness in hands and feet
What are the causes of Megaloblastic Anaemia?
The major causes of Megaloblastic Anaemia include a nutritional deficiency, either acquired or general, or an inability to absorb the following nutrients:
- Deficiency of folic acid in your diet.
- Deficiency of vitamin B12 in your diet.
- Medication-induced deficiency of folic acid or vitamin B12.
- Atrophic gastritis.
- Diseases of the lower digestive tract such as Celiac disease.
- Autoimmune disorder when your stomach cells are attacked and cannot produce the binding partners of vitamin B12 and hinder its absorption.
Sometimes the causes of Megaloblastic Anaemia may be inherited. These include:
- Congenital folate malabsorption
- Thiamine-responsive Megaloblastic Anaemia syndrome
- Genetic mutation of the MTHRF gene that converts vitamin B12 and folate into their usable forms in the body.
How is Megaloblastic Anaemia diagnosed?
In case you exhibit any Megaloblastic Anaemia symptoms, your doctor may advise you to undergo certain tests. This is done after your doctor conducts a physical examination and assesses your medical history to rule out any other causes of your symptoms. These tests are essential for Megaloblastic Anaemia diagnoses and include:
- CBC test: The complete blood count or CBC test is done to assess the number and characteristics of your red blood cells. Larger and poorly developed red blood cells indicate the presence of Megaloblastic Anaemia. This also serves as an anemia test.
- Physical examination: Your doctor may advise this examination for Megaloblastic Anaemia diagnosis in case you are exhibiting weakness in your limbs, fatigue, or difficulty in walking.
- Vitamin Test: A vitamin test may be ordered to check if the deficiency of vitamin B12 or folate is causing your Megaloblastic Anaemia.
- Schilling Test: An important test for Megaloblastic Anaemia diagnosis, this test assesses your body's ability to absorb vitamin B12.
- Ferritin Test: A ferritin test is done to assess if the high levels of your Megaloblastic Anaemia are due to a shift in the level of iron in your blood.
How is Megaloblastic Anaemia treated?
Your doctor will decide your Megaloblastic Anaemia treatment depending on several factors. These include:
- The root cause of your Megaloblastic Anaemia.
- Your age
- Your general health condition
- The severity of your Megaloblastic Anaemia
- Your bodys response to Megaloblastic Anaemia treatment
Here is how Megaloblastic Anaemia treatment is done:
- Managing vitamin B12 deficiency: In case your Megaloblastic Anaemia is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12, you will be treated by:
- Supplementary injections or capsules of vitamin B12.
- Adding this vitamin through your diet. Include foods such as red meat, fortified cereals, chicken, tuna, salmon, trout, etc.
- Managing folate deficiency: Megaloblastic Anaemia caused by the deficiency of folate is treated by:
- Supplementing folic acid in your body through oral supplements or intravenous therapy.
- Add folic acid to your diet through foods such as fortified cereals, chickpeas, kidney beans, peas, leafy greens, peanuts, lentils, etc.
- Managing MTHFR gene mutation: If your Megaloblastic Anaemia is caused by the mutation of the MTHFR gene, genetic testing will be done to confirm this mutation. Once confirmed, you will be given supplements of methylcobalamin to manage your symptoms.
Initially, Megaloblastic Anaemia treatment was quite difficult. But today, it is easy to treat this condition by meeting your folic acid and vitamin B12 deficiency.
Can Megaloblastic Anaemia be prevented?
While Megaloblastic Anaemia is not preventable, but you can adopt a healthier lifestyle by:
- Improving your sleep patterns.
- Eating a healthy diet that includes a good amount of fruits and vegetables.
- Focusing on a diet rich in folic acid and vitamin B12.
- Avoiding packaged and processed foods.
- Increasing foods rich in vitamin C in your diet. These enable better absorption of iron in your body. These include citrus fruits, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, etc.
- Reducing alcohol consumption.
- Quitting smoking.
- Exercising at least 30 minutes 5 times a week. This helps you stay at your optimum weight that prevents the risk of serious obesity-related health concerns.
- Practicing relaxation techniques and mindfulness to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Find time to take a break and engage in recreational activities to refresh your mind.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking enough water in a day.
- Avoid drinking tea or coffee with your meals. This interferes with iron absorption in your body.