Pellagra is a disease which includes 3D's - Diarrhoea, Dermatitis, and Dementia. Lack of niacin, also known as Vitamin B-3, in your body can lead to Pellagra disease. People who do not consume enough Vitamin B-3 may suffer Pellagra disease and it can become fatal if not treated properly on time. The symptoms may include rashes and itchy skin, red and flaky skin, weakness, and headaches. However, the better news is Pellagra disease is not a common problem anymore. Most countries have marked it eradicated owing to the better and more nutritious food qualities.
Pellagra can be of two types:
Primary pellagra is caused by consuming food with low niacin or tryptophan, causing Vitamin B3 deficiency. This type of pellagra is common in developing countries that have corn as their staple food. Corn contains niacytin (a form of niacin) that the human body cannot digest unless the food is prepared and cooked properly.
Secondary pellagra happens when your body is unable to absorb niacin and use it for essential functions. There are a few things that can prevent your body from absorbing Vitamin B3, such as:
Additionally, the following factors can increase your risk of suffering from pellagra:
Diets with a high quantity of corns
Low dietary intake of tryptophan
The major pellagra symptoms include diarrhoea, dementia, and dermatitis. Suffering from dermatitis as a result of pellagra can cause rashes on your body. In some cases, dermatitis is also found on the neck, which is known as the Casal necklace.
Additionally, a few other symptoms of pellagra are as follows:
Red and flaky skin
Skin discolouration (red to brown patches on the skin)
Thick, crusty, scaly, or cracked skin
Itchiness and inflammation of the skin
Neurological symptoms of pellagra are apparent in some cases. However, they are usually difficult to identify. But as pellagra disease progresses, some dementia symptoms that one can suffer from are as follows:
Mood swings and confusion
Disorientation or delusions
Also, a few other noticeable symptoms of pellagra are as follows:
Sore lips, tongue, or gums
Trouble eating or drinking
Since someone suffering from pellagra can pose various symptoms, it becomes challenging for doctors to diagnose the disease. There are no specific tests for diagnosing pellagra or Vitamin B-3 deficiency. However, your doctor starts by conducting a physical examination for gastrointestinal problems, rashes, and observing changes to your mental health. Further, they can suggest taking a urine test. If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should not hesitate to visit the doctor.
People suffering from primary pellagra are treated with dietary and lifestyle changes along with a niacin or nicotinamide supplement. Nicotinamide is another form of Vitamin B3 and is used for early treatments of people suffering from pellagra. If the disease is diagnosed at an early stage, one can recover completely within a few days of starting the treatment. However, skin improvements may take a while (usually, a few months). When pellagra is left untreated, it can lead to the death of the individual within 4-5 years.
When it comes to treating secondary pellagra, the underlying health condition is first diagnosed. Further, treatment for the said cause will eventually help the patient recover from pellagra. In some cases, patients also respond to taking niacin or nicotinamide supplements. In either case of pellagra, it is essential to keep the rashes moisturised and protected with sunscreen during the entire treatment and recovery phase.
Mild primary pellagra cases are treatable with simple dietary and lifestyle changes. A few natural ways to treat pellagra at home are:
Whether or not you are suffering from pellagra, a healthy diet that is rich in niacin and tryptophan is a must. Such a meal helps you avoid acquiring the disease in the first place or its recurrence. You can consume foods such as:
If you do not want to consume Vitamin B3 supplements, you must follow a healthy meal that provides plenty of niacin and tryptophan.
A majority of people suffering from pellagra tend to also suffer from diarrhoea. A few ways you can curb diarrhoea symptoms during pellagra are as follows:
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
Consume easy-to-digest meals for a few days
Change your diet to fibre-rich meals containing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
Also, you must avoid food and lifestyle habits that can trigger diarrhoea symptoms.
Once your pellagra treatment begins, the chances are that you might feel fatigued. Therefore, you must get enough rest during your treatment and recovery period. Sleeping 8 hours a day helps your brain relax from the neurological symptoms of pellagra. Additionally, once you regain your strength, you can practice yoga and meditation activities to ease long-lasting neurological symptoms.
As the symptoms of pellagra are vast and often similar to symptoms of other diseases, you may not initially realise that some of these milder symptoms could be of concern. In case you start developing any mild symptoms of pellagra which do not go away on their own after a few days, it is best to consult a doctor. They can recommend the right course of action after a thorough check. Pellagra is not a disease that should be taken casually as it can be fatal when left untreated.
Some complications that can occur as a result of pellagra include:
Loss of Appetite
The best method for pellagra prevention is consuming lots of foods that are rich in chemical niacin. You should also stop consuming too much alcohol as it can block proper absorption of niacin in the body. Some of the niacin-rich foods you can incorporate into your daily diets are dairy, fish, mushrooms, legumes, peanuts, etc. However, as much as prevention is important, you must remain safe too. Protect yourself from any unplanned medical emergencies by opting for a good health insurance plan available at Bajaj Markets.
Pellagra is a severe disease that can significantly affect one's life and health. As mentioned earlier, it is proven to be fatal when not treated. Therefore, it is highly recommended to seek medical attention as soon as you first start experiencing the symptoms of pellagra.
Moreover, it is suggested to consume a completely nutritious diet with the recommended allowance of niacin.
For adults: 14-16 mg per day
For pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers: 18 mg per day
For people under 18 years: 6-16 mg per day
Anyone suffering from pellagra can recover fully from the disease with proper medication and healthy lifestyle habits. If you are worried about the treatment cost of the disease, get in touch with your health insurance provider right away. Enquire whether pellagra or any health complication arising due to it are covered in the policy.
The major symptoms of pellagra are:
Loss of appetite
The four Ds of pellagra refer to the effects of pellagra on the body, which are; diarrhoea, dementia, dermatitis and death.
Alcoholics and people who do not consume enough niacin in their diets are at the highest risk of developing this condition.
Mild cases of pellagra can be treated at home with niacin- rich foods but you should always consult a doctor if you are facing any of the pellagra symptoms.
Pellagra is common in some African and Asian countries where corn is used as a staple food in everyday diets by the people.