Autoimmune diseases are diseases in which the body’s immune system which is responsible to protect and fight against diseases and infections, attack bodies tissue and healthy cells accidentally.
Such autoimmune disorders can affect any part or organ of the human body. Autoimmune disorders are linked to genes and could be inherited but not in all cases.
Autoimmune Atrophic Gastritis
One of such autoimmune disorders is Autoimmune Atrophic Gastritis. Autoimmune Atrophic Gastritis attacks the cells in the stomach. Parietal cells which produce gastric acid (fluid crucial in digesting food) and intrinsic factor (a glycoprotein substance which helps absorb vitamin B12 in our body).
The immune system starts attacking and eliminating these parietal cells creating iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies. Vitamin B12 deficit in the body can lead to megaloblastic anemia, pernicious anemia, gastrointestinal problems or neurologic symptoms.
Iron deficiency can result in anemia causing heart problems. Atrophic Gastritis antibodies may elevate the risk of developing stomach cancer.
Autoimmune Atrophic Gastritis is a rare disease with unknown explanations of what causes it. People with diabetes type I, thyroid issues or other autoimmune disorders are the ones most likely to be affected with autoimmune atrophic gastritis.
Autoimmune thyroiditis, Addison’s disease, and vitiligo may also be added to the list of causes. African-Americans or people from northern European descent are at a higher risk to have this condition. More than one member of a family may have autoimmune atrophic gastritis.
It is a disorder that may affect family members in some cases. If any of the parents have this autoimmune disorder, there is a 50 percent chance in each pregnancy that the disease might pass on to the children. In some cases there might be no such family history of the disorder, it might be the result of new mutations in the gene.
Signs and Symptoms
Autoimmune atrophic gastritis may cause nausea, vomiting, fatigue, palpitations, pale complexion, stomach ulcers, sudden weight loss, and abdominal or stomach pain. These clinical signs and symptoms may be associated with this disease. The antibodies to atrophic gastritis destroy the protective barrier of the stomach lining.
Impaired stomach lining interferes with the absorption of vital vitamins like iron, folate, and vitamin B12. The deficiency of these vitamins leads to symptoms like weakness, mental confusion, numbness, heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness or tinnitus. There might also be no clear signs or symptoms in some cases.
Diagnosis of Autoimmune Atrophic Gastritis
If someone shows the symptoms associated with the autoimmune disorder and severe deficiencies of vitamin B12 and iron are detected in the blood work, then additional testing is required to confirm the diagnosis.
Proper diagnosis is necessary to avoid any risks, as autoimmune atrophic gastritis may also increase the risk of stomach cancers. Early treatment and diagnosis of this disorder can help lower the mortality rate.
People with autoimmune atrophic gastritis may develop gastric adenocarcinoma or carcinoids. This autoimmune disease is considered a precancerous condition. Therefore periodic endoscopy is recommended by doctors in some cases where the risk of developing cancer is high.
A biopsy of the stomach lining is obtained endoscopically and blood tests that determine the autoantibodies against the parietal cells of the stomach.
The treatment for autoimmune atrophic gastritis heavily depends on treating and improving iron levels and vitamin B12 levels. Vitamin B12 levels are improved by taking B12 injections. Iron oral supplements do not usually provide enough iron if someone is anemic.
Taking periodic intravenous iron infusions may help elevate iron levels. Oral ferrous glycine sulfate can also be taken daily to fulfill the iron needs of the body. In order to keep iron and vitaminB12 level in check, people with autoimmune atrophic gastritis should have their levels monitored regularly.
- Nafea Zayouna, MD. Atrophic Gastritis. Medscape Reference. December 2014; http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/176036-overview.