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Everything about Folic acid deficiency- symptoms, causes and treatment

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Aug 22, 2016
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)
Quick Bites

  • Folic acid is a type of B vitamin.
  • It plays an important role in DNA synthesis and repair, it is also essential for healthy blood cells.
  • A deficiency of folic acid can cause anemia and other health complications.
  • Folic acid deficiency can cause serious birth defects in newborn babies.


Folic Acid Deficiency, also known as Folate Deficiency occurs when your body does not have enough folic acid or Vitamin B9. Folic acid is an essential nutrient which is needed by human body to maintain healthy blood cells and to make and repair DNA.


folic acid

Most people get enough Folic acid from a regular healthy diet, but a deficiency may occur due to poor dietary habits or if your body is having trouble absorbing Folate. Folate deficiency may occur if you are not including foods containing folic acid in your diet, such as green leafy vegetables and citrus juices. It can also be caused due to some diseases which hamper the absorption of folic acid in the body or due to excessive consumption of alcohol, which also limits folate absorption by the body.

Deficiency of folic acid in your body for a significant period of time may cause folate deficiency anemia. Folic acid helps your body to make new cells, which also include red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body and a decreased number of red blood cells in the body causes anemia.

Folic acid deficiency is particularly harmful for women of childbearing age who are either carrying a child or are planning to become a mother. Low levels of folate in such women may cause serious problems for the child, including stunted growth and very serious birth defects. This is why women who are planning to have a baby are usually given vitamin B supplements by the doctor.


Symptoms of folic acid deficiency

Symptoms of folic acid deficiency are usually very subtle and are usually dismissed as common day to day health issues. Some of the main symptoms seen in a folate deficient person are.



Feeling tired and weak is a common symptom seen in patients suffering from folate deficiency. Some people may also suffer from loss of appetite, which further contributes to weakness and lethargy.

Mouth sores

Having mouth sores if one of the most obvious signs of folate deficiency. Many doctors prescribe Vitamin B supplements for people who develop mouth sores due to no apparent reason.



A person having folic acid deficiency may feel irritable and grouchy throughout the day. People have trouble concentrating and some patients find it difficult to focus on work.


Gray hair

Premature graying of hair can be a sign of folic acid deficiency. It also causes the hair to grow slower and might affect the health of your hair to a great extent.


Growth problems

Folic acid deficiencyin young children might have adverse effects on their growth. Children suffering from folate deficiency anemia sometimes suffer from stunted growth.


Screening and diagnosis

Your doctor might make a diagnosis based upon your past health and current health issues that you are facing. Folic acid deficiency is usually confirmed by a blood test which shows the amount of red blood cells in your body and if you have enough folic acid.


Causes of olic acid deficiency

Low levels of folic acid can be caused by inadequate intake of Vitamin B9 or a number of underlying health issues which restrict folic acid absorption in the body. Some of the most common causes of folate deficiency are.


Low levels of folic acid in the diet

If your diet contains insufficient amount of food containing folic acid, you might be prone to develop a deficiency. A healthy diet to maintain good levels of folic acid should contain at least one serving of green leafy vegetables per day. Citrus fruits and fruit juices are also a great source of folic acid.


Excessive consumption of alcohol

The intestinal absorption of folic acid is decreased significantly if alcohol is present in the bloodstream. For people who regularly have alcoholic drinks with their meals, low levels of folic acid might be a very real concern.


Gut diseases

Certain gut diseases such as coeliac disease might lead to poor absorption of folic acid. In such conditions of the gut, many of the important nutrients are not absorbed and supplements might be needed to maintain a balance.

Certain medications

Medications such as methotrexate and some anticonvulsant medicines used in the treatment of epilepsy can interfere with absorption of folic acid. If you are taking any medicines which hamper folate absorption, ask your doctor if you can take supplements to avoid folic acid deficiency.


Certain blood disorders

Blood disorders such as sickle cell disease or thalassemia can cause a huge number of red blood cells in the body. Normal folic acid reserves are not sufficient for such increased number of red blood cells, and a deficiency may occur.


Treatment for folic acid deficiency

Treatment of folic acid deficiency is quite simple. It can be cured by taking Vitamin B9 supplements for a period of time until the problem is resolved. A supplement regimen should be accompanied by a healthy diet rich in folic acid foods such as lentils, beans, avocados, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits.

If you suffer from any disease which interferes with absorption of folic acid then folic acid supplements are recommended for a longer period of time, or indefinitely as suggested by your doctor.

If you are pregnant, or planning to have a baby it is crucial to include extra folic acid in your diet. This can be done by having a healthy diet, but usually supplements are essential in order to prevent birth defects in the baby.


Image Source: Getty

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