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Folate deficiency is the lack of folic acid in the blood. Folic acid is a B vitamin needed to make normal red blood cells. Low levels can cause megaloblastic anemia.
Very large red blood cells characterize megaloblastic anemia. The inner contents of each cell are not fully developed. This causes the bone marrow to make fewer red blood cells. Sometimes, the cells die earlier than the 120-day life expectancy. Instead of being round or disk-shaped, the red blood cells can be oval.
Lack of folic acid in the diet causes most anemia. Foods such as green leafy vegetables; fresh fruits; cereals; meats, including liver; and yeast contain folic acid. Many foods have folic acid added to them.
Alcohol blocks the absorption of folate. If you drink heavily, you are at risk for folate-deficiency anemia.
Folate deficiency can also happen if you have certain diseases of the lower digestive tract, such as celiac disease. It also occurs in people with cancer.
Folate deficiency is common in pregnancy. This is because the fetus needs more folic acid. Also, the mother absorbs it more slowly. There is a link between folate deficiency during pregnancy and neural tube defects in the fetus.
Some infants are born without the ability to absorb folic acid. It can lead to megaloblastic anemia. It calls for early treatment to prevent problems such as poor reasoning and learning.
Certain medicines, such as the ones that prevent seizures can impair the absorption of folic acid. This can often be resolved with a dietary supplement.
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 consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
Your health care 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 injections. Eating foods high in folic acid and cutting alcohol intake are also important. If a digestive tract problem causes anemia, your provider may treat it first.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.