Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia: Causes

Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia: Causes

Topic Overview

Folic acid is one of the B vitamins. It helps produce red blood cells. Low levels of folic acid (also called folate) in the body decrease production of red blood cells and cause folic acid deficiency anemia .

Causes of folic acid deficiency anemia include:

  • Not eating enough foods that contain folic acid.
    • Unhealthy diets may not have much folic acid.
    • Vegan diets may not include enough folic acid.
    • People who have the eating disorder anorexia nervosa severely limit how much they eat, including those foods that contain folic acid.
  • Having an increased need for folic acid. This might happen with:
    • Pregnancy. Pregnant women need more folic acid to protect their babies from birth defects, such as neural tube defects .
    • Blood disorders, such as sickle cell anemia , that use up the body's supply of folic acid.
    • Diseases that cause rapid cell growth, such as leukemia or psoriasis .
    • An increased rate of metabolism , as might happen with an overactive thyroid ( hyperthyroidism ). This uses up the body's store of folic acid faster than it is absorbed.
  • Not absorbing or retaining folic acid. This can be caused by:
    • Drinking too much alcohol.
    • Having hemodialysis .
    • Having an intestinal problem such as celiac disease.
  • Taking certain medicines, including medicine used to treat cancer.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJoseph O'Donnell, MD - Hematology, Oncology
Last RevisedDecember 18, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use . How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.