Megaloblastic Anemia

What is megaloblastic anemia?

Megaloblastic anemia is a form of anemia characterized by very large red blood cells and a decrease in the number of those cells. Anemias are blood disorders that occur when the body has fewer red blood cells than normal. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body using a protein called hemoglobin. If there aren’t enough of these cells or this protein, anemia results.

Usually, megaloblastic anemia is due to acquired deficiency in vitamin B12 or folic acid. The deficiency can be related to inadequate dietary intake of these B vitamins or poor intestinal absorption. Rarely, megaloblastic anemias are the result of medications or inherited defects in the transport/metabolism of vitamin B12 or folic acid.

Pernicious anemia

Pernicious anemia is a type of megaloblastic anemia in which the body isn’t able to absorb vitamin B12 due to a lack of intrinsic factor in stomach secretions. Intrinsic factor is needed for the body to absorb vitamin B12.

For all types of megaloblastic anemia, in addition to the red blood 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 red blood cells die earlier than the 120-day life expectancy.

How we care for megaloblastic anemia

Children and young adults with megaloblastic anemia are treated through Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, an integrated pediatric hematology and oncology partnership between Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children's Hospital.

Our joint Blood Disorders Center brings together world-renown pediatric hematology specialists and support staff from across Dana-Farber/Boston Children's, including pediatric hematologist/oncologists, hematopathologists, hematology nurse practitioners, social workers and designated hematology patient coordinators. For many appointments and certain procedures, your child can also receive care at one of Boston Children's satellite offices.