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Subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord is due to vitamin B12 deficiency, such as occurs in pernicious anemia. It is characterized by myelopathy with spasticity, weakness, proprioceptive loss, and numbness due to degeneration of the corticospinal tracts and posterior columns. Polyneuropathy, mental changes, or optic neuropathy also develop in some patients. Megaloblastic anemia may also occur, but this does not parallel the neurologic disorder, and the former may be obscured if folic acid supplements have been taken. Treatment is with vitamin B12. For pernicious anemia, a convenient therapeutic regimen is 1000 mcg cyanocobalamin intramuscularly daily for 1 week, then weekly for 1 month, and then monthly for the remainder of the patient’s life. Oral cyanocobalamin replacement is not advised for pernicious anemia when neurologic symptoms are present. A similar syndrome is caused by recreational abuse of inhaled nitrous oxide due to its interference with vitamin B12 metabolism. Copper deficiency, caused by malabsorption or excess zinc ingestion, may also be responsible.

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