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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.
You can get folic acid
deficiency anemia if:
Anemia may make you:
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.
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.
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.
Learning about folic acid deficiency anemia:
Other Works Consulted
Katz DL (2008). Appendices and resource materials,
Folate. In Nutrition in Clinical Practice: A Comprehensive, Evidence-Based Manual for the Practitioner, 2nd ed., pp. 517–519.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Stopler T, Weiner S (2012). Medical nutrition therapy for anemia. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13 ed., pp. 725–741. St Louis: Saunders.
Green R (2010). Folate, cobalamin, and megaloblastic anemias. In K Kaushansky et al., eds., Williams Hematology, 8th ed., pp. 533–563. New York: McGraw-Hill.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsnrfol.htm.
December 18, 2012
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Joseph O'Donnell, MD - Hematology, Oncology
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