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Folic acid - test

Definition

Folic acid is a type of B vitamin. This article discusses the test to measure the amount of folic acid in the blood.

Alternative Names

Folate - test

How the Test is Performed

A blood sample is needed.

How to Prepare for the Test

You should not eat or drink for 6 hours before the test. Your health care provider may tell you to stop taking any drugs that may interfere with test results, including folic acid supplements.

Drugs that can decrease folic acid measurements include:

  • Alcohol
  • Aminosalicylic acid
  • Birth control pills
  • Estrogens
  • Tetracyclines
  • Ampicillin
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Erythromycin
  • Methotrexate
  • Penicillin
  • Aminopterin
  • Phenobarbital
  • Phenytoin
  • Drugs to treat malaria

How the Test will Feel

You may feel slight pain or a little sting when the needle is inserted. There may be some throbbing at the site.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is done to check for folic acid deficiency.

Folic acid helps form red blood cells and produce DNA that stores genetic codes. Taking the right amount of folic acid before and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should take at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Some women may need to take more if they have a history of neural tube defects in earlier pregnancies. Ask your provider how much you need.

Normal Results

The normal range is 2.7 to 17.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) or 6.12 to 38.52 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L).

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different labs. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your test results.

The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some labs use different measurements or may test different specimens.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Lower-than-normal folic acid levels may indicate:

The test may also be done in cases of:

Risks

There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Other slight risks from having blood drawn may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)

References

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.

Elghetany MT, Schexneider KI, Banki K. Erythrocytic disorders. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 32.

Mason JB. Vitamins, trace minerals, and other micronutrients. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 218.


Review Date: 1/29/2019
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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