Young man drinking tasty milk at home

Pernicious Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

If your tongue appears to be much redder than its typical pink hue, there's a chance you may have a blood disorder known as pernicious anemia. This disorder affects your body's ability to make enough healthy red blood cells due to a lack of a specific protein called intrinsic factor.

Your body needs this protein to absorb vitamin B12, a necessary nutrient that keeps your nervous system working properly and creates red blood cells. When it lacks intrinsic factor protein, the absorption of B12 is diminished, inhibiting the production of red blood cells in your body.

Pernicious Anemia Tongue Symptoms

According to the NHLBI, pernicious anemia causes the tongue's surface to look smooth and appear red instead of the pinkish color of a normal tongue. The tongue might also appear thick or beefy in texture. Some tongues might even be swollen or appear to have cracks. Further, patients with this blood disorder might also have ulcers in their mouths.

In addition to the appearance of the tongue, other symptoms of this disorder are as follows:

  • A numb or tingling feeling in hands and feet
  • Weak muscles
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fast heart rate

Because these symptoms can overlap with those of other blood disorders or health issues, it's important to seek a diagnosis from your doctor. They can typically determine the deficiency through a blood test.

Causes and Risk Factors

Certain autoimmune disorders can be a risk factor for pernicious anemia, such as type 1 diabetes. This disorder is usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, but it can develop at any age. Some other conditions and factors can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency, including infections, surgery, medicines, and diet.

This disease is also chronic and progresses slowly. Replacement therapy with adequate amounts of vitamin B12 will often correct the deficiency. However, individuals with this blood disorder also have a higher risk of developing stomach cancer. Therefore, it's important to make sure that you visit your healthcare provider and dentist regularly so they can properly diagnose any changes in your health.

Treatment Options

Treating pernicious anemia will require the help of a doctor. According to the NHLBI, patients may need lifelong treatment, but taking vitamin B12 shots or pills is usually very effective.

A well-balanced diet, including foods rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid, is also essential to managing the condition and preventing it in the future. Foods rich in vitamin B12 as well as folic acid include:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Milk

Continuing to take vitamin B12 supplements and eating a well-balanced diet will allow you to live comfortably with pernicious anemia. To keep your mouth healthy through any symptom flare-ups, brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and be sure to clean between your teeth with floss daily. It's important to maintain regular appointments with both your medical and dental professional so they can address any unusual findings and start you on a treatment path for your best overall health.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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