Doctor warns unusual sign on the tongue can signal vitamin B12 deficiency

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

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient vital to keep the body functioning properly.

It is needed to create healthy red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.

Therefore, a long-term B12 deficiency can be dangerous resulting in permanent damage.

The sooner you spot any signs of this happening the sooner you can seek treatment.

One expert spoke exclusively with about what to look for.

READ MORE Key signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency – nutrient vital in older age

Dr Joshua Berkowitz, founder of IVBoost clinic, said: “A wide range of symptoms can be experienced from vitamin B12 deficiency, which can exacerbate if left untreated.

“Anaemia is a common cause of B12 or folate deficiency where there are fewer red blood cells or a lower amount of haemoglobin, which helps the blood carry oxygen around the body.”

He warned that a swollen and sore tongue is one “unusual” symptom.

“A more unusual symptom is glossitis or a sore tongue,” he said.

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“B12 deficiency can cause inflammation of the tongue, making it swollen, sore and uncomfortable and painful to eat, swallow and speak.

“The exact reason why a deficiency in vitamin B12 causes glossitis is not entirely understood.

“However, it is believed that the deficiency affects the normal renewal process of the tongue’s cells, leading to changes in the tongue’s appearance and texture.”

Other symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Problems with vision
  • Psychiatric symptoms – affecting mental health including depression, anxiety, low mood
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Breathlessness
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Tinnitus
  • A change in thinking abilities, memory, understanding and judgement.

Why is a B12 deficiency of concern?

B12 deficiency is a concern because this essential nutrient plays a crucial role in several important functions within the body including red cell production, nervous system function and cognitive function, said Dr Berkowitz.

He added: “Long-term complications may lead to permanent damage to the nervous system, including irreversible neurological impairments.”

How can you prevent becoming deficient?

The best way to prevent a deficiency is to eat a diet rich in vitamin B12.

It is found in many animal product foods such as cheese, butter, milk, eggs, meat and fish.

However, it can also be found in nutritional yeast such as Marmite and fortified cereals.

Vegetarians and vegans are therefore more at risk of becoming deficient.

Over-the-counter vitamins can be purchased from most pharmacies.

If your deficiency is more serious your GP might decide you need B12 injections.

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