Folate-deficiency anemia is the lack of folic acid in the blood. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps your body make red blood cells. If you don’t have enough red blood cells, you have anemia.
Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body. When you have anemia, your blood can’t bring enough oxygen to all your tissues and organs. Without enough oxygen, your body can’t work as well as it should.
Low levels of folic acid can cause megaloblastic anemia. With this condition, red blood cells are larger than normal. There are fewer of these cells. They are also oval-shaped, not round. Sometimes these red blood cells don’t live as long as normal red blood cells.
You can develop folate-deficiency anemia if:
Some babies are born unable to absorb folic acid. This can lead to megaloblastic anemia. With this condition, red blood cells are larger than normal. They also have a different shape. Early treatment is needed to prevent problems such as poor reasoning and learning.
You are more likely to have this type of anemia if you:
Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of folate-deficiency anemia may look like other blood conditions or health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider may think you have this type of anemia after taking your medical history and doing a physical exam. You may have several blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. You may also have a barium study if a digestive problem is the cause.
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
Treatment may include:
You may need to take folic acid supplements for at least 2 to 3 months. These may be pills or shots (injections). Eating foods high in folic acid and cutting your alcohol intake are also important. If a digestive tract problem causes your anemia, your provider may treat that first.
Folate-deficiency anemia during pregnancy may cause a neural tube defect. This is when the brain or spinal cord doesn’t develop normally. It can cause death before or soon after birth. Or it may cause paralysis of the legs.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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