Vitamin B12 deficiency: Is your tongue this colour? It could be a sign you're lacking B12


Vitamin B12 is involved in making red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy. A lack of B12 can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia, which causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that can’t function properly. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause an array of symptoms, some of which can be very subtle while others can be more severe. One symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency which could easily be overlooked is a sore and red tongue.

A sore and red tongue could be caused by various things, but if it doesn’t seem to improve and comes with other symptoms, it could be a sign you are lacking B12.

Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include extreme tiredness, a lack of energy, mouth ulcers and pins and needles.

It can also lead to muscle weakness, disturbed vision, depression and problems with memory.

“See your GP if you think you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency,” said the NHS.

“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.”

“It’s important for vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible because, although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible.”

Complications associated with vitamin B12 deficiency are rare, as the condition can usually be easily and effectively treated, according to the NHS.

However, complications can occasionally develop, particularly if you have been deficient for some time.

As well as vision problems, memory loss and pins and needles, other neurological complications can include loss of physical coordination and damage to parts of the nervous system.

In addition, vitamin B12 deficiency can sometimes lead to temporary fertility, which usually improves with appropriate treatment.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can also increase the risk of developing stomach cancer, in cases where deficiency is caused by pernicious anaemia.

Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune condition and is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK.

The condition causes the immune system to attack the cells in the stomach, meaning the body is unable to absorb B12.

If vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by pernicious anaemia, it can be treated by having injections of the vitamin.

Injections are usually administered every three months for the duration of the patient’s life.

In cases where vitamin B12 deficiency is diet-related, it can usually be reversed by improving your diet.

Good sources of B12 include meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals.


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