5. Swollen tongue
A swollen tongue is a condition where the whole tongue, or a part of it, is bloated, enlarged or distended. It is another symptom of iron deficiency as the lack of oxygen will cause the muscles to enlarge and become painful. Other muscles in the body will also be affected, but the most prominent is the tongue. Cracks that are on the sides of the mouth may also be indicators of low iron levels in the blood.
People with an iron deficiency may have a tongue that is inflamed, sore and swollen. It appears pale and smooth due to the low levels of hemoglobin in the blood (due to low iron levels) and the loss of the finger-like projections found on the surface of the tongue. This leads to problems with speaking, chewing and swallowing.
During the early stages of iron deficiency, symptoms such as a swollen tongue may not be visible. However, as the deficiency progresses, the swollen tongue and other symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, headaches, fainting, brittle nails, coldness in the hands and feet, shortness of breath, and pale skin become more pronounced. A person ends up having difficulties when eating food as chewing and swallowing the food becomes painful and difficult. Holding a conversation becomes a problem as talking is also painful with a swollen tongue.
A swollen tongue due to an iron deficiency is best treated using iron supplements which increase the amounts of iron in the blood, hence the bone marrow is able to make more red blood cells. The iron supplements are obtainable in oral, liquid and injection forms. For a person with a swollen tongue, liquid supplements are best taken using a straw. Intravenous ones are suitable for patients whose tongues are so swollen that they cannot swallow anything at all, including liquids.