DEFINITION--Anemia caused by a deficiency of folic acid. It is often accompanied
by iron-deficiency anemia.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Blood cells, which transport oxygen to all body parts.
SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Both sexes, but most common in women over 30.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Red, sore tongue.
- Shortness of breath.
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (rare).
- Complication of pregnancy, when the body needs 8 times more folic acid than usual.
- Inadequate intake or absorption of foods with a high folic-acid content, such as meat,
poultry, fish, cheese, milk, eggs, green vegetables, yeast and mushrooms.
- Overcooking foods, which destroys folic acid.
- Deficiency of vitamin B-12 or vitamin C.
RISK INCREASES WITH
- Adults over 60, especially those who have poor diets.
- Illness, such as tropical sprue, psoriasis, acne rosacea, eczema or dermatitis
- Fad diets or general poor nutrition, especially vitamin-C deficiency.
- Surgical removal of the stomach.
- Smoking, which decreases vitamin-C absorption. Vitamin C is necessary for folic-acid
- Use of certain drugs, such as oral contraceptives, anticonvulsants, methotrexate,
triamterene or sulfasalazine.
HOW TO PREVENT
- Don't drink alcohol.
- Have regular medical checkups during pregnancy. Take prenatal vitamin supplements, if
they are prescribed.
- Eat well. Include fresh vegetables, meat and other animal proteins. Avoid fad diets.
Don't overcook food.
- Don't smoke. Smoking increases vitamin requirements.
What To Expect
- Your own observation of symptoms.
- Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
- Laboratory blood studies and possibly a Schilling test to measure vitamin B-12 levels
and a therapeutic trial of vitamin B-12.
APPROPRIATE HEALTH CARE
- Self-care after diagnosis.
- Doctor's treatment.
- Increased susceptibility to infection.
- Congestive heart failure (severe cases only).
PROBABLE OUTCOME--Usually curable in 3 weeks with an adequate folic-acid intake.
How To Treat
- If you smoke, stop smoking.
- If you take oral contraceptives, consider using another form of contraception.
MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:
- Folic-acid supplements.
- Iron supplements to take orally.
ACTIVITY--Anemia causes fatigue. Schedule regular rest periods until you are
able to resume normal activity.
DIET--No special diet. Eat foods daily that are high in folic acid. The liver
can store folic acid for a limited time only. Foods include asparagus spears, beef liver,
broccoli spears, collards (cooked), mushrooms, oatmeal, peanut butter, red beans, wheat
Call Your Doctor If
- You have symptoms of anemia.
- Symptoms don't improve in 2 weeks, despite treatment.
- Symptoms of infection (fever, chills and muscle aches) occur during treatment.