Folic Acid Deficiency
Folate deficiency is a low level of folate (vitamin B9) in the body. This vitamin is found in many foods. A form of folate, called folic acid, is also added to foods and in supplements. The body uses this vitamin to build proteins, make DNA, and help form red blood cells.
|Scanning Electron Micrograph of Red Blood Cells|
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Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Not getting enough folate in the diet due to:
- Poor nutrition
- Long-term need for IV nutrition
Having conditions and procedures that affect the body's ability to absorb folate from the digestive tract, such as:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Celiac disease or other malabsorption disorders
- Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants and oral contraceptives
- Bariatric surgery
Needing more folate than normal due to:
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Growth in infants
- Liver disease
- Chronic hemolytic anemia
- Kidney dialysis
- Taking certain medicines, such as methotrexate
- Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood
Problems may be:
- Feeling very tired
- Lack of hunger
- Pale skin
- A red, irritated, swollen, and sometimes shiny tongue
- Mouth sores
- Shortness of breath and lightheadedness
- Change in bowel patterns, such as loose stools
Folate deficiency can lead to problems such as:
- Megaloblastic anemia—larger than normal red blood cells
- Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood—a risk factor for heart disease
- Neural tube defects that affect fetal spinal cord, brain, and skull development
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Folate Deficiency; Folacin Deficiency)
March of Dimes http://www.marchofdimes.org
Office of Dietary Supplements—National Institutes of Health http://ods.od.nih.gov
Bariatric surgery. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T483434/Bariatric-surgery . Updated October 23, 2017. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Dietary supplement fact sheet: folate. Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional. Updated April 20, 2016. Accessed November 8, 2017.
Folate deficiency. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114304/Folate-deficiency . Updated December 21, 2016. Accessed November 8, 2017.