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DefinitionFolate-deficiency anemia is a decrease in red blood cells ( anemia ) caused by folate deficiency .
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Folate, also called folic acid, is necessary for red blood cell formation and growth. Folate can be obtained from green leafy vegetables and liver. Some medications, such as Dilantin, interfere with the absorption of this vitamin. Because folate is not stored in the body in large amounts, a continual dietary supply of this vitamin is needed.
Risk factors are a poor diet (seen frequently in the poor, the elderly, and in people who do not buy fresh fruits or vegetables), overcooking food, alcoholism, having a history of malabsorption diseases, and pregnancy. The disease occurs in about 4 out of 100,000 people.
Signs and tests
TreatmentThe goal is to treat the underlying cause of the anemia, which may be dietary or a malabsorption disease.
Oral or intravenous folic acid supplements may be taken on a short-term basis until the anemia has been corrected, or in the case of poor absorption by the intestine, replacement therapy may be lifelong.
Dietary treatment consists of increasing the intake of green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits.
Expectations (prognosis)Anemia usually responds well to treatment within 2 months.
ComplicationsSymptoms of anemia can cause discomfort. In a pregnant woman, folate deficiency has been associated with neural tube or spinal defects (such as spina bifida ) in the infant.
Calling your health care providerCall for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms indicate anemia of folate deficiency may be present.
PreventionAdequate dietary intake in high-risk individuals and folic acid supplementation during pregnancy may help prevent the onset of this anemia.
Update Date: 4/25/2003Ezra E. W. Cohen, M.D., Section of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT