Anemia Tongue – What Should You Know?

The most basic functions of our day to day life, for example, chewing, swallowing and speaking depends primarily on the movement of the tongue.

So, looking upon the importance of such a small part of our body, it is essential to be aware of the conditions that may hinder its function.


Our tongue, as small as it looks, it is the most active and one of the strongest muscle in our body. It is an essential part of the oral cavity as well.

Every systemic condition affects oral tissues. Anemia is the most common type of systemic diseases that have a noticeable and long-lasting impact on the oral tissues.

There are many kinds of anemia, and each one of them has a different cause. But nearly all types of anemia share a handful of oral symptoms mainly affecting the tongue, leading to a condition known as Anemia tongue or Glossitis.

In this article, we will unfold the causes, symptoms and treatment options for anemia tongue.

What is anemia tongue?

Anemia Tongue is also known as Glossitis. It is explained as an inflammation of the tongue accompanied by redness, swelling, and change in the surface texture of the tongue.

These alterations affect some of the essential functions of the mouth like speech, swallowing and the ability to chew food.

Anemia Tongue is characterized when the iron levels in the body are low. A study done on iron deficiency anemia patients showed that 26.7% of the oral manifestations included anemia tongue. (1)

What causes Glossitis?

Many conditions can lead to Glossitis, i.e., inflammation of the tongue. The National Library of Medicine has listed the following common causes:


Anemia due to low iron levels is the prime cause. Iron helps the body in making RBCs, i.e., red blood cells. When there is an iron deficiency in the body, the tissue including the tongue receives a lack of oxygen leading to inflammation and atrophy of the tongue.

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are the most common cause of inflammation of the tongue. Certain medications, hot and spicy food and certain types of oral health care products can irritate the papillae of the tongue.


Any trauma to the mouth resulting from burns or the use of oral appliances like dentures can cause damage to the tongue or even lead to tongue inflammation.

Oral herpes

Oral Diseases such as oral herpes simplex cause blisters, pain, and swelling of the tongue. Some variations of herpes simplex have also proven to be contagious.

Dry mouth

Saliva keeps the tongue moist and free of bacteria that can aggravate on the surface of the tongue. Less production of saliva leads to dry mouth. In this case, the bacteria present on the tongue remain for a long time and start affecting its surface.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of Anemia tongue can vary from asymptomatic to severe. In either case, it is better to have a piece of knowledge about the signs and symptoms:

  • Swollen tongue
  • Change of tongue color – Often presented as redness on the tongue
  • Difficulty in chewing, swallowing and speaking properly
  • Pain and tenderness in the tongue
  • A difference in surface texture – Reduction or loss of papillae on the tongue

Types of Glossitis

Inflammation of the tongue resulting from anemia can be clinically present in various forms. Let’s see what they are:

Acute Glossitis

Acute Glossitis occurs as a result of an allergic reaction, this type of glossitis occurs suddenly and is accompanied by more pronounced symptoms.

Chronic Glossitis

Chronic Glossitis leads to a constant inflammation of the tongue, and it might result as an effect of various other health conditions that are already present.

Idiopathic Glossitis

A case study from the Journal of Medical Reports states that idiopathic glossitis may be related to celiac disease. Celiac disease can cause inflammation of the tongue mucous membrane and muscle. (2)

Atrophic Glossitis

This form of glossitis causes a change in color from ordinary to dark-red. It also leads to loss of papillae from the surface of the tongue.

Treatment modalities

Although in a condition like anemia tongue, there is no definite treatment, a few modifications to your oral hygiene practice and daily diet can prove to be very useful in avoiding the complications related to it.

  • Antibiotics or prescribed medications to treat the underlying disease
  • Diet modifications and nutrient supplements
  • Maintain good oral hygiene
  • Avoid irritants (hot or spicy foods, alcohol, and tobacco) to ease discomfort

These are the treatment measures that can be used to treat glossitis.

A message to take away

It is always best to get routine dental check-ups especially when you are suspecting anemia tongue.


A dentist will be able to identify the symptoms and advise you further to take up any blood and saliva tests to confirm the results.

Stay informed about the changes in oral healthcare practices and save yourself from the misery of damaging your oral tissues.

A healthy mouth starts with regular brushing and flossing. Keep your teeth and gums as healthy as they can be.


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