A folic acid test is used to evaluate anemia and folate deficiency by measuring the amount of folic acid in the blood. Folic acid can be measured from the red blood cells to determine the amount of folic acid stored in the body. The amount of folic acid in red blood cells measures the level when the cell was made, up to four months earlier.
Folic acid deficiency can result in a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia. Mild folic acid deficiency usually does not cause any symptoms. Severe folic acid deficiency may cause a sore tongue, diarrhea, headaches, weakness, forgetfulness, and fatigue.
A folic acid test may be done to:
- Check for the cause of anemia. A folic acid test is often done at the same time as a test for vitamin B12 levels because a lack of either vitamin may cause anemia.
- Check for malnutrition or problems absorbing (malabsorption) folic acid.
- See if treatment for folic acid deficiency or vitamin B12 deficiency is working.
- See if a woman has enough folic acid to prevent certain birth defects and allow her baby to grow normally.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant need extra folic acid to make more red blood cells and maintain normal growth of their baby. Women who do not get enough folic acid before and during pregnancy are more likely to have a child born with a birth defect, such as a cleft lip or cleft palate or a neural tube defect, such as spina bifida.
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No preparation is needed