Vitamin B12 deficiency: Two ‘problems’ that arise in the mouth following very low levels

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

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One of the “problems” caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency is the appearance of mouth ulcers. While harmless on its own, this marker of a nutritional deficit could forewarn about future issues. Experts at the Oral Health Foundation explained mouth ulcers are “painful sores” that are usually red or yellow in colouring. They can appear inside the cheeks, on the lips, tongue, gums, and/or on the roof of the mouth.

“Most of these ulcers are the size of the top of a pencil and can sometimes come in clusters,” the experts noted.

It is not uncommon to experience up to six mouth ulcers at any one time, and while many ulcers can be indicative of biting the inside of the cheeks, for example, it can also be a warning sign of anaemia.

The NHS added that a vitamin B12 deficiency may also result in a sore, red tongue.

Other signs of a deficiency may include: extreme tiredness, pins and needles, muscle weakness, disturbed vision, and psychological problems.

Two examples of psychological problems caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency include depression and confusion.

A lack of vitamin B12 may also lead to problems with memory, understanding and judgement.

The NHS instructed: “See a GP if you think you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency.

“It’s important for vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.”

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia

Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine said: “Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is more common in people whose families come from northern Europe.”

Two of the main causes of a B12 deficiency include a lack of intrinsic factor or surgery that affects the small intestine.

Expanding on intrinsic factor, it is a protein made in the stomach, which is needed to absorb vitamin B12 from the foods you eat.

People in older age are at risk of acquiring an autoimmune condition called pernicious anaemia.

Those who have pernicious anaemia have an immune system that attacks stomach cells responsible for making intrinsic factor.

If intrinsic factor is unable to be made, then vitamin B12 is unable to be retained in the body, no matter how healthy your diet is.

Alternatively, previous surgery on the small intestine can also prevent vitamin B12 from being absorbed effectively.

Another reason for a vitamin B12 deficiency can include chronic gastritis.

If you are diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency, treatment will depend on a number of factors.

Such influential factors include: how old you are; your overall health and medical history; and if your condition is expected to get worse.

Most treatment options either include supplementation or injections, added the NHS.

“These treatments may be needed for the rest of your life,” the health body stated.

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