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Pellagra: Introduction

Pellagra is a lack of a sufficient amount of vitamin B3 (niacin) in the body. Niacin is essential for optimal cellular health. Pellagra is caused by an inability of the body to absorb or process niacin or a lack of niacin and/or tryptophan the diet. Pellagra that results from inadequate intake of niacin and/or tryptophan is most common in developing countries of the world or in places where there is poverty and poor nutrition. People at risk for pellagra include those with a poor diet that is lacking in niacin and/or tryptophan. Pellagra can also result from a disease, disorder or condition that affects the absorption or processing of niacin in the body. This is called secondary pellagra. There are many causes of secondary pellagra, including ulcerative colitis, excessive diarrhea, liver cirrhosis, chronic alcoholism, Hartnup disease and carcinoid tumors. Pellagra can also be a side effect of certain medications. People with these conditions are at risk for developing secondary pellagra Symptoms of pellagra typically affect the skin, gastrointestinal system and the nervous system. Pellagra can be serious, even fatal, if untreated. Complications include coma and death. For more details on symptoms and complications, see symptoms of pellagra. Niacin is a water soluble vitamin that is not stored effectively in the body and requires a daily intake to maintain health. Niacin is found in whole grains, meats, and fish. Niacin is essential for many aspects of health, including energy metabolism, growth and development, hormone synthesis, and healthy skin, genetics, digestive tract, blood cells, brain and nervous system. Tryptophan is a necessary protein that is required for the development of the vitamin niacin and is found in milk and eggs. A diagnosis of pellagra begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and a physical examination. Diagnostic tests include a niacin deficiency testing, which measures levels of niacin in the body In addition, tests will be performed to determine overall health and any underlying disease or disorder that can cause pellagra, such as ulcerative colitis, excessive diarrhea, liver cirrhosis, chronic alcoholism, Hartnup disease and carcinoid tumors. Tests can include blood liver function tests, a serum chemistry panel, a complete blood count, and imaging tests, such as CT and MRI. Because the symptoms and presentation of pellagra can be vague, it is possible to that a diagnosis can be missed or delayed. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of pellagra. Pellagra can generally be treated successfully and cured, and most people with the disorder have a good prognosis. Treatment of pellagra involves niacin supplements. Treatment is tailored to the individual case, the cause, and the presence of any underlying diseases or complications. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of pellagra. ...more »

Pellagra: Dietary deficiency of vitamin B3 (niacin). More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Pellagra is available below.

Pellagra: Broader Related Topics


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