What Is Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia?
Having too little folate (vitamin B9) in your blood causes folic
acid deficiency anemia.
Folate is necessary for your body to make new red blood cells.
Your body needs red blood cells to carry oxygen to your organs. Not having
enough red blood cells causes a condition called anemia, which can make you
feel weak and tired.
Your baby may be at higher risk of developing serious birth
defects like spina bifida if you have folic acid deficiency anemia during
pregnancy. Spina bifida causes the baby’s spinal column to be malformed.
If you’re folic acid deficient, taking supplements to increase
your folic acid level can reduce your risk of developing anemia. What’s more: Experts
Medical School say that getting enough folic acid can reduce your risk of
developing colon cancer and heart disease.
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is the synthetic version of the vitamin folate, also
called B9. Your body loses B9 when you sweat and urinate. And your body can’t
store it, so you need this vitamin daily.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include:
- mouth sores
- gray hair
- swollen tongue
- poor growth (also among the chief symptoms of
Once anemia occurs, you might experience the following:
- feeling cold
- difficulty breathing
- pale skin
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- difficulty concentrating
Who Is at Risk for Folic Acid Deficiency
Factors that increase your likelihood of developing this
- eating overcooked foods
- consuming a vitamin-poor diet
- heavy alcohol drinking (alcohol interferes with folate
- medical conditions (like sickle cell disease)
What Causes Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia?
Malnutrition is the
most common cause of folic acid deficiency anemia. Eating a diet low in
vitamins or overcooking foods can contribute to malnutrition. Heavy bleeding
can also lead to anemia.
Foods rich in folic acid include citrus fruits, leafy green
vegetables, and fortified cereals. Some people have trouble absorbing folic
acid from food.
Other causes of folic acid deficiency anemia include the
Pregnancy causes folic acid deficiency for several reasons. Your
body is slower to absorb folic acid during pregnancy, and the fetus consumes
your body’s folic acid as it grows. Morning sickness that results in vomiting
can cause you to lose folic acid.
Malabsorption occurs when your body can’t properly absorb a
vitamin or mineral. Diseases such as celiac disease and medications, including
those to control seizures, can disrupt the way your body absorbs folic acid.
How Is Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia
Other blood conditions can cause symptoms similar to folic acid
deficiency anemia. You’ll need to see your doctor for a diagnosis. Your doctor
will do a complete blood count
(CBC) test to determine if you have folic acid deficiency anemia.
This test will reveal if your red blood cell count is low.
Your doctor may also order a blood test to check your
folic acid levels. This is called a red blood cell folate level test. If you’re of childbearing age,
your doctor may order a pregnancy test to determine if this is the cause of
your deficiency. They’ll also ask questions about your eating habits to see if
malnutrition is the culprit.
Be sure to mention to your doctor whether you’re taking any
medications. Some can contribute to folic acid deficiency.
How Is Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia Treated?
The goal of treatment is to increase your body’s folic acid
levels. The easiest way is to take folic acid tablets daily, until the
deficiency is corrected. However, you might need to receive folic acid intravenously
if your levels are too low.
Along with taking supplements, you should eat foods that are high
in folic acid, such as pinto beans, spinach, and oranges. Eat plenty of fresh
foods and avoid processed or fried foods. They’re usually low in nutrients and
high in fat.
Medical School guidelines recommend consuming 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic
acid per day. Pregnancy and certain health conditions may warrant taking more.
The most you can take without developing symptoms of an overdose is 1,000 mcg
of folic acid per day.
Consult with your doctor before taking folic acid supplements.
What Is My Long-Term Outlook?
After treatment, most people with folic acid deficiency recover
from this condition with no long-term health effects.