Folic Acid Deficiency

(Folate Deficiency; Folacin Deficiency)

Definition

Folic acid deficiency means that there is a lower than normal amount of folic acid in your blood. Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin, which means it cannot be stored well in the body. You must get a continual supply of it.This B vitamin plays a role in:
  • Building proteins in the body
  • Producing DNA
  • Helping to form red blood cells
Scanning Electron Micrograph of Red Blood Cells
14600W
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

There are several causes of folic acid deficiency, including the following:
  • Inadequate dietary intake of folic acid due to:
    • Limited consumption of fresh, minimally cooked food
    • Chronic alcoholism
    • Long-term need for IV nutrition (total parenteral nutrition)
  • Inadequate absorption of folic acid due to:
    • Malabsorption syndromes, such as celiac disease
    • Inflammatory bowel disease
    • Drug interactions, such as anticonvulsant medicines and oral contraceptives
    • Bariatric surgery
  • Increased need for folic acid due to:
    • Pregnancy
    • Lactation
    • Infancy
    • Malignancy, such as cancer
  • Increased loss that can occur from hemodialysis
  • Impaired use that can occur from certain medications, such as methotrexate

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of developing folic acid deficiency include:
  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Malignancy
  • Liver disease
  • Alcoholism
  • Chronic hemolytic anemia
  • Kidney dialysis treatment
  • Celiac disease or other malabsorption disorders
  • Need for certain medications, such as anticonvulsants and oral contraceptives
  • Elevated homocysteine levels in the blood

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