Anemia can cause symptoms in the mouth, such as a sore tongue and ulcers or sores. However, it typically affects other aspects of a person’s overall health.

Anemia occurs when a person does not produce enough healthy red blood cells, which means the body does not get enough oxygen-rich blood.

A person with anemia may feel tired or weak due to the lack of oxygen. People may also experience other symptoms, including symptoms that affect the mouth.

Anemia may occur due to a nutrient deficiency, blood loss, an underlying condition, or another cause.

This article reviews the symptoms of anemia that may affect the mouth, other symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and when to contact a doctor.

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People with iron deficiency anemia may experience some symptoms that affect their mouth. Iron deficiency anemia can occur when a person does not have iron in their body.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service suggests that mouth symptoms are less common than some of the other symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. When the condition does affect the mouth, a person may notice:

A person may also notice that their gums appear pale. As with the skin, when the gums do not receive enough oxygen, they can appear paler than usual.

An older 2014 study found a correlation between chronic periodontitis and clinical indicators of anemia, such as low levels of hemoglobin.

Periodontitis, or gum disease, is an infection of the gums that can damage the bone and soft tissue that supports the teeth. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that is rich in iron.

The authors of the 2014 study also found that nonsurgical periodontitis treatment may help improve anemia. However, they also highlighted that further research into the topic is necessary.

Anemia can cause several different symptoms. However, many of them are nonspecific, which means a person or doctor may not immediately suspect anemia when they present.

Some common symptoms of anemia include:

A person may also present with:

A doctor may start the diagnostic process with a physical examination and review of personal and family medical history. They may ask a person questions about potential risk factors for anemia, such as drinking alcohol in excess.

To confirm the diagnosis, they will likely order a complete blood count. This is a blood test in which a healthcare professional analyses several aspects of a person’s blood. It can show if red blood cell levels and other blood component levels are outside their typical ranges. They may also order other blood tests.

Following blood tests, they may order additional diagnostic tests, such as:

  • bone marrow tests to check the bone marrow is making red blood cells correctly or in adequate quantities
  • colonoscopy or endoscopy to detect bleeding issues along the digestive tract
  • urine tests to check the kidneys are working correctly and for bleeding in the urinary tract
  • genetic testing to detect changes in the genes that control how the body makes red blood cells

Each person’s treatment for anemia will vary based on the underlying cause and severity.

In some cases of iron deficiency anemia, a doctor may recommend diet changes as well as iron supplements. Iron deficiency accounts for 50% of all cases of anemia, making it the most common cause of the condition.

Other possible treatment options include:

Anemia can be a serious health condition, particularly for children and people who are pregnant. Severe cases of anemia may cause an increased risk of maternal and childhood mortality. Less severe cases can lead to physical and mental developmental delays in children.

A caregiver should consider taking their child to a pediatrician if they show signs of anemia, such as lethargy, paler skin than usual, or dizziness.

People who are pregnant should consult a doctor regularly. Doctors typically screen for anemia and other signs of complications at different stages during pregnancy.

A person should consider contacting a doctor if they experience any symptoms of anemia. A doctor may recommend diagnostic tests to check for anemia and other possible underlying causes.

Iron deficiency anemia may cause symptoms in the mouth, although they are less common than other symptoms, such as tiredness and lack of energy. Mouth symptoms of anemia may include pale gums, mouth ulcers, and food tasting unusual.

Many of the symptoms of anemia are not specific to the condition, so a person should speak with a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Treatments will vary based on the underlying cause of a person’s anemia. For iron deficiency anemia, they may include dietary changes and iron supplements.