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What are Folic Acid Deficiency Symptoms?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Folic acid deficiency is a shortage of folic acid or folate, one of the B vitamins. This vitamin plays a role in a number of processes inside the body. Left untreated, a folic acid deficiency will progress to folic acid anemia, also known as folate anemia, a form of megaloblastic anemia. Common folic acid deficiency symptoms can include a loss of appetite, weakness and fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. There are a number of steps which people can take to reduce their risks of developing these folic acid deficiency symptoms.

People at risk for folic acid deficiency include people who do not eat a balanced diet or who have a medical condition which interferes with the absorption of nutrients, such as alcoholism or a malabsorption disorder. Certain medications can lead to deficiencies because they interfere with the way the body processes nutrients, and people on kidney dialysis are at risk of folic acid deficiency because folic acid is expressed at a higher rate. Age is another risk factor.

When people hear the words "folic acid," they often think of pregnancy, because pregnant women are advised to take folic acid supplements. This is a result of the fact that the body utilizes folic acid at a greater rate during pregnancy, and also during breastfeeding, putting women at risk of a folic acid deficiency. In addition, babies born to mothers with a folic acid deficiency are more likely to be premature and may have neural tube defects.

Folic acid deficiency symptoms may very subtle at first, and that can make this vitamin deficiency difficult to diagnose unless a patient and doctor are specifically looking for it. Some early signs can include fatigue, a sore tongue, headaches, irritability, loose stools, confusion, and difficulty focusing. Over time, the condition will result in anemia, which will increase the intensity of these symptoms.

A folic acid deficiency can usually be corrected by increasing intake of folic acid. People can determine whether they are deficient in this nutrient by having a blood test done. The blood will be analyzed to determine its composition and to look specifically for abnormally low levels of specific nutrients which should be present. If the cause for a folic acid deficiency is not known, treatment should also include determining the cause and treating it. Someone who is pregnant, for example, would know why she has a folate deficiency, while someone with no known health problems who develops folic acid deficiency symptoms should be examined to learn more about what is happening inside the body.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Jun 11, 2013

I don't know if my symptoms are from folic acid deficiency or celiac disease but I have diarrhea, bloating and no appetite. I'm always exhausted and moody. Probably both of these conditions are causing it.

They're related anyway. Celiac disease reduces the amount of folic acid my body can absorb. I take folic acid regularly, but I still have to get regular blood tests to check my levels.

By ysmina — On Jun 10, 2013
My sister has folate anemia. She has to take a folic acid tablet everyday. If she doesn't take it, she feels dizzy and faints.

She has almost all of the symptoms of folic acid deficiency even though she is being treated. She doesn't eat much, she's thin and gets tired easily. She's doing better at school but before she was diagnosed, she was having a very hard time. It used to take her an hour to read a page of text.

By burcidi — On Jun 10, 2013

Folic acid is also important for healthy eggs and sperm. Folic acid deficiency can reduce infertility. My husband had a folic acid deficiency. Since he has added more folic acid to his diet and folic acid supplements, the number of healthy sperm he has, has increased.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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