Woman, 61, suffered from lingual paraesthesia that turned out to be B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12‘s importance for your body is brought into attention by its absence. Among other things, the vitamin supports your nervous system and helps to make red blood cells. A case report of a 61-year-old woman with a B12 deficiency, published in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, highlights the different locations where symptoms can strike.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can often be “sneaky” yet “harmful”, according to the Harvard Medical School.

While various symptoms can strike out of nowhere, the condition can take its time before showing symptoms, ultimately providing some clues by showing subtle signs.

For the 61-year-old woman, the first red flag was a persistent burning sensation that took over her tongue, also known as lingual paraesthesia.

Lasting for six months, this warning sign didn’t seem to be triggered by new foods or oral hygiene products because the patient didn’t make any changes in these areas.

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The medical team settled on glossitis as a clinical diagnosis caused by vitamin B12 deficiency.

Linked to lingual paraesthesia, glossitis describes a condition in which your tongue becomes inflamed and swollen.

The surface of your tongue can appear red and sore, according to the NHS.

While this condition can be stirred up by various problems, ranging from allergic reactions to infections, vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the possible culprits behind a swollen tongue.


The woman was eventually administered an injection of vitamin B12, which resulted in “complete resolution” of her symptoms.

Her tongue problems also disappeared just after three days following the injection.

According to the researchers, glossitis tends to crop up in up to 25 percent of patients with the deficiency.

Fortunately, the condition is linked to various other symptoms that could ring alarm bells.

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The NHS lists these symptoms as possible pointers to the lack of B12:

  • Pale yellow tinge to your skin
  • 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
  • Decline in your mental abilities (such as memory, understanding and judgement).

The health service urges seeing a GP when you experience symptoms like these.

It states: “It’s important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.

“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”

Fortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency can be often picked up based on your symptoms and as a result of a blood test.

From injections to supplements, there are various ways to top up your levels once you get the condition confirmed.

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