Megaloblastic anemia is a type of anemia characterized by very large red blood cells. In addition to the cells being large, the inner contents of each cell are not completely developed. This malformation causes the bone marrow to produce fewer cells, and sometimes the cells die earlier than the 120-day life expectancy. Instead of being round or disc-shaped, the red blood cells can be oval.
There are many causes of megaloblastic anemia, but the most common source in children occurs from a vitamin deficiency of folic acid or vitamin B12. Other sources of megaloblastic anemia include the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of megaloblastic anemia. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of megaloblastic anemia may resemble other blood conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
Megaloblastic anemia may be suspected from general findings from a complete medical history and physical examination of your child. In addition, several blood tests can be performed to confirm the diagnosis. If the megaloblastic anemia is thought to be caused from a problem in the digestive tract, a barium study of the digestive system may be performed and occasionally an endoscopy may need to be performed.
Specific treatment for megaloblastic anemia will be determined by your child's doctor based on:
Treatment usually involves your child taking an oral dietary folic acid supplement for at least two to three months. If the disorder is caused by an absorption problem in the digestive tract, this may need to be treated first.
Foods that are rich in folic acid include the following:
Foods that are rich in folic acid and vitamin B12 include the following:
Taking folic acid by mouth is more effective than eating foods rich in folic acid. B12 is not as well absorbed by mouth as per injection.
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