Pellagra- Causes and Treatment



Pellagra received its name from Francesco Frapoli in the mid seventeen hundreds in Milan. He named the disease “pelle agra” because it meant skin sour, which was one of the most visible characteristics of Pellagra. It is a disease that is caused by a vitamin deficiency of niacin and/or tryptophan. Niacin is one of the B complex vitamins that provides essential nutrients to the human body. Tryptophan can be converted to niacin as long as there is not a protein deficiency in addition to the niacin deficiency, because the body will create needed protein before niacin. The human body is very complex and requires a lot of different vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy state, that is why the government and other health agencies recognize similar standards for the daily intake of foods rich in the essential vitamins and minerals. With the right balance of foods in a human beings diet, diseases like Pellagra can be avoided.

Symptoms of Pellagra

The symptoms of Pellagra are skin irritations and sores that resemble scaly or dry skin in a severe state or even large weeping sores. There is typically diarrhea and inflamed mucous membranes, causing someone suffering from Pellagra to have a sore mouth on top of everything else. A high sensitivity to light, aggressive behavior and insomnia are also reported symptoms. Mental confusion or delusions are a common symptom of this disease, along with the potential for dementia if it goes untreated.

People Affected by Pellagra

Understanding that Pellagra is caused by a deficiency of niacin it may seem as though it should be easy enough to prevent. This is true in most developed parts of the world that do not face issues of starvation or serious droughts that can kill an entire village. Once a country becomes industrialized they no longer must deal with many diseases that underdeveloped, poor countries must continue to battle. Places like India, China, Africa and rural parts of South America still have people for whom Pellagra is a common disease. One of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that most of these areas have people who have a primary diet of corn, which is not a good source of niacin or tryptophan. Most of these people do not eat meat, fish, legumes or other sources of protein or niacin on a regular basis; in fact, many of them almost never eat these types of foods, which makes them a likely candidate for the disease.

One other potential group of people that can be affected by Pellagra is those who have gastrointestinal diseases or chronic alcoholism. Both of these conditions can deplete the body of essential nutrients like niacin, leaving the person susceptible to diseases such as Pellagra. This is yet another reason to obtain regular medical care if that luxury is available, especially if there are other known problems occurring.

Treatment and Prevention of Pellagra

Pellagra is easily treated through receiving doses of niacin, although it must be done carefully as overdosing on niacin can be very dangerous. Niacin in high amounts is considered toxic to the body and can cause serious consequences if too much is administered and too quickly. That is why a doctor or medical professional or some sort is a must for dealing with this disease. However, preventing the disease is done simply through maintaining a properly balanced diet. Most all plant and animal foods are rich in niacin, so it is not difficult for those in a developed country to receive the proper amounts just by eating normally. Foods that are especially high in niacin are yeast, all kinds of meat especially liver and fish, any kind of beans or soy products such as kidney beans, green beans, pinto beans, tofu and soy beans, milk and green leafy vegetables like lettuce, kale and spinach. Seeds are another good source of niacin, like sunflower seeds, which also make a great snack.

Conclusion of Pellagra

It is important to maintain a healthy diet for more reasons than just a physical appearance issue. There are clearly many complications that can occur if the proper amount of nutrients are not received on a regular basis. One of the diseases possible to contract is Pellagra, which primarily affects people in underdeveloped parts of the world who have a diet that consists mostly of corn. The symptoms of Pellagra are not pleasant and thankfully avoidable for the majority of the world.

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