Vitamin B12 deficiency: Tongue beginning to look and feel strange? It could be lack of B12

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Borderline B12 deficiency can sometimes cause symptoms so dramatic that B12 deficiency may be rejected as a possible cause because it may be thought that such symptoms wouldn’t be caused by a mere borderline deficiency, said the Thyroid Patient Advocacy.

The health site continued: “B12 deficiency sometimes goes undiagnosed until the symptoms become moderate to severe, although this is not necessarily the fault of the medical profession.

“The symptoms often come on so slowly that a B12-deficient individual may become accustomed to them and not complain until the symptoms become severe.”

Symptoms on the tongue

Thyroid Patient Advocacy said: “Itchy or tingling tongue.

“The tongue suddenly itches from time to time without warning.

“This occurs on the edge of the tongue, along one side or the other or at the tip.

“There is an irresistible urge to scratch the tongue on the teeth to stop the itching.

“Some individuals experience stinging, pain, or tingling instead of itching.”

Why the tongue is affected with a B12 deficiency

In a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, oral manifestations in vitamin B12 deficiency patients was investigated. 

The study noted: “The purpose of this study was to compare clinical features of vitamin B12 deficiency patients with a history of gastrectomy to those without a history of gastrectomy.

“Twenty-two patients with vitamin B12 deficiency were included.

“Eleven patients had a history of gastrectomy and 11 did not with the chief complaint was glossodynia in all patients.

“No significant differences were observed between the two groups regarding age, sex, symptom duration, or plasma vitamin B12 level.”

The study concluded that a vitamin B12 deficiency and its associated etiological factors should be considered in patients with glossodynia, even those whose oral mucosa appears normal and who lack a history of gastrectomy.

The National health body listed other symptoms of a B12 deficiency which include:

  • A pale-yellow tinge to your skin
  • A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • Changes in the way that you walk and move around
  • Disturbed vision
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Changes in the way you think, feel and behave
  • A decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement (dementia)

Foods with B12 are always the first choice, but if you have trouble eating B12-rich foods, or have problems absorbing B12, another potential vitamin B12 source is a multivitamin, said Harvard Health.

The site continued: “In fact, the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines suggest that people older than age 50 take a multivitamin supplement as a way to ensure adequate B12 intake.”

When it comes to the right kinds of food rich in vitamin B12, fortified breakfast cereals, clams, beef, Swiss cheese, ham, salmon and eggs are all good sources.

If you have noticed any strange changes to your tongue, speak to your GP about the possible cause. 

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