Anemia is a problem in which there are not enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. In megaloblastic anemia, the bone marrow, where the cells are formed, makes fewer cells. And the cells that are formed don’t live as long as normal. The red blood cells are:
There are many causes of megaloblastic anemia. The most common cause in children is lack of folic acid or vitamin B-12. Other causes include:
These are some of the symptoms of megaloblastic anemia:
The symptoms of megaloblastic anemia may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always check with your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:
A bone marrow aspiration, biopsy, or both may be done to look at the number, size, and maturity of blood cells andabnormal cells.
Your child may also need a barium study or other imaging tests of the digestive system.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Your child's healthcare provider may refer you to a hematologist. This is an expert in blood disorders. If the anemia is caused by a digestive tract problem, it may need to be treated first. Your child's provider may also refer you to a gastroenterologist for this reason. He or she is an expert in digestive system problems.
Most children with megaloblastic anemia are given B-12 or folic acid supplements. Vitamin B-12 supplements are best absorbed when given by injection. Folic acid supplements are given by mouth.
Foods that have natural folate include:
Cereals, breads, pastas, and rice are fortified with man-made folic acid.
Meat and dairy products have the most vitamin B-12.
In general, anemia may cause:
Megaloblastic anemia can also cause problems with the nervous system.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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