What is the definition of Folate-Deficiency Anemia?

Folate-deficiency anemia is a decrease in red blood cells (anemia) due to a lack of folate. Folate is a type of B vitamin. It is also called folic acid.

Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues.

What are the causes for Folate-Deficiency Anemia?

Folate (folic acid) is needed for red blood cells to form and grow. You can get folate by eating green leafy vegetables and liver. However, your body does not store folate in large amounts. So, you need to eat plenty of folate-rich foods to maintain normal levels of this vitamin.

In folate-deficiency anemia, the red blood cells are abnormally large. Such cells are called macrocytes. They are also called megaloblasts, when they are seen in the bone marrow. That is why this anemia is also called megaloblastic anemia.

Causes of this type of anemia include:

  • Too little folic acid in your diet
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Long-term alcoholism
  • Use of certain medicines (such as phenytoin [Dilantin], methotrexate, sulfasalazine, triamterene, pyrimethamine, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and barbiturates)

The following raise your risk for this type of anemia:

  • Alcoholism
  • Eating overcooked food
  • Poor diet (often seen in the poor, the older people, and people who do not eat fresh fruits or vegetables)
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight loss diets

Folic acid is needed to help a baby in the womb grow properly. Too little folic acid during pregnancy may lead to birth defects in a baby.

What are the symptoms for Folate-Deficiency Anemia?

Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Pallor
  • Sore mouth and tongue

What are the current treatments for Folate-Deficiency Anemia?

The goal is to identify and treat the cause of the folate deficiency.

You may receive folic acid supplements by mouth, injected into muscle, or through a vein (in rare cases). If you have low folate levels because of a problem with your intestines, you may need treatment for the rest of your life.

Diet changes can help boost your folate level. Eat more green, leafy vegetables and citrus fruits.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Folate-Deficiency Anemia?

Folate-deficiency anemia most often responds well to treatment within 3 to 6 months. It will likely get better when the underlying cause of the deficiency is treated.

What are the possible complications for Folate-Deficiency Anemia?

Symptoms of anemia can cause discomfort. In pregnant women, folate deficiency has been associated with neural tube or spinal defects (such as spina bifida) in the infant.

Other, more severe complications may include:

  • Curly graying hair
  • Increased skin color (pigment)
  • Infertility
  • Worsening of heart disease or heart failure

When should I contact a medical professional for Folate-Deficiency Anemia?

Call your provider if you have symptoms of folate deficiency anemia.

How do I prevent Folate-Deficiency Anemia?

Eating plenty of folate-rich foods can help prevent this condition.

Experts recommend that women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day before they get pregnant and through the first 3 months of their pregnancy.



Antony AC. Megaloblastic anemias. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 39.

Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC. Hematopoietic and lymphoid systems. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC, eds. Robbins Basic Pathology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 12.

  • Condition: Secondary Anemia in "frailty" Patients
  • Journal: European review for medical and pharmacological sciences
  • Treatment Used: Ferric Sodium EDTA Combined with Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Copper Gluconate, Zinc Gluconate, and Selenomethionine
  • Number of Patients: 52
  • Published —
This study evaluated the safety of the administration of Ferric Sodium EDTA in combination with vitamin C, folic acid, copper gluconate, zinc gluconate, and selenomethionine (Ferachel Forte®) in "frailty" patients with secondary anemia and low kidney failure.
  • Condition: Pre-Operative Anemia
  • Journal: Anaesthesia
  • Treatment Used: Quadruple Treatment
  • Number of Patients: 253
  • Published —
This study analyzed combination treatment with intravenous iron, subcutaneous erythropoietin alpha, vitamin B12, and oral folic acid in patients with pre-operative anemia undergoing cardiac surgery.
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Phase: N/A
  • Intervention Type: Other
  • Participants: 1000
  • Start Date: January 2021
A Randomized Trial of Quadruple Fortified Salt for Anemia and Birth Defects Prevention in Southern India
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Participants: 200
  • Start Date: November 23, 2020
Iron-deficiency and Non-iron-deficiency Anemia in Pregnancy and Infant Health in India