Vitamin B12 deficiency: The ‘sore’ changes to your tongue and mouth that may be a warning

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that can be sourced from your diet. However, people can develop a B12 deficiency for a number of reasons. There are several common symptoms associated with a deficiency, but some of them can be rather painful.

When you are deficient in vitamin B12, you can develop what is known as “deficiency anaemia”.

According to the NHS, among the most commonly reported symptoms are some uncomfortable changes to your tongue and mouth.

People may develop “a sore and red tongue” known as glossitis, or mouth ulcers.

Ulcers can develop on the gums or tongue, and though they usually clear up on their own, they can be uncomfortable when present.

People with glossitis might notice their tongue appears “beefy” or “fiery red and sore”.

The tongue may also develop red lesions or appear unusually smooth.

Other symptoms of deficiency anaemia can impact the way you act and your mental health.

The NHS states that people with a B12 deficiency may experience “depression, irritability, changes in the way that you walk and move around, changes in the way you think, feel and behave, and a decline in mental abilities such as memory or judgement.”

The health service adds: “Some of these symptoms can also happen in people who have a vitamin B12 deficiency but have not developed anaemia.”

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How is a vitamin B12 deficiency treated?

If you think you might have developed vitamin B12 anaemia, it is urgent you visit your doctor as soon as possible.

This is because deficiency anaemia should be diagnosed and treated rapidly.

The NHS explains: “Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.

“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”

Most often, a vitamin B12 deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test.

Your GP will likely decide on a course of treatment based on the cause of your deficiency.

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.

There are two types of B12 injection – hydroxocobalamin or cyanocobalamin.

Of the two, hydroxocobalamin is usually the recommended option as it stays in the body for longer.

If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals.

Or you may need to have an injection of hydroxocobalamin twice a year.

However, if your vitamin B12 deficiency has been caused by something other than your diet, you’ll usually need to have an injection of hydroxocobalamin every two to three months for the rest of your life.

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