Discusses folic acid deficiency anemia. Discusses role that folic acid (folate) plays in making red blood cells. Covers symptoms and complications of anemia. Covers treatment with diet and daily supplement. Offers list of foods that provide folic acid.
Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia
What is folic acid deficiency anemia?
deficiency anemia happens when your body does not have enough
folic acid. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins, and
it helps your body make new cells, including new
red blood cells. Your body needs red blood cells to carry oxygen. If you don't have enough red blood cells, you have
anemia, which can make you feel weak and tired. So
it's important that you get enough folic acid every day.
people get enough folic acid in the food they eat. But some people either don't
get enough in their diet or have trouble absorbing it from the foods they eat.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should take a daily vitamin with folic
Pregnant women who do not get enough folic acid are more
likely to have babies with very serious birth defects.
What causes folic acid deficiency anemia?
You can get folic acid
deficiency anemia if:
You don't eat enough foods that contain folic
acid. These include citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, and fortified
You have a greater need for folic acid. This might happen
if you are pregnant or have some medical problems, such as sickle cell disease.
Your body doesn't absorb enough folic acid. This might happen if
you drink too much alcohol or have severe kidney problems that require
Your doctor will examine you and ask questions
about your past health and how you are feeling now. You will also have blood
tests to check the number of red blood cells and to see if your body has enough
The level of vitamin B12 will be checked too. Some
people whose folic acid levels are too low also have low levels of vitamin B12.
The two problems can cause similar symptoms.
How is it treated?
If you think you have anemia, it is important to see your
doctor and get tested so you can get the right treatment. Being treated for a
shortage of folic acid when your anemia is caused by something else can be
To treat the anemia, you can take folic acid
pills each day to bring your folic acid level back up.
After your folic acid levels are normal, eat foods rich in folic acid so you don't get anemia again. These foods include fortified breads and cereals, citrus fruits, and dark green, leafy vegetables.
Why is folic acid important before and during pregnancy?
Folic acid helps prevent neural
tube defects, such as spina bifida. These are major birth defects in which the
baby's brain or spine is not fully formed. These birth defects usually happen
in the first few weeks of pregnancy, before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
If you are a woman who could get pregnant, experts recommend taking a
daily vitamin to make sure you get enough folic acid. For folic acid to help,
you need to take it every day, starting before you become pregnant. If you are pregnant and you have not been taking a vitamin containing folic acid, begin taking it right away.
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U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsnrfol.htm.
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