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Folic Acid

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 2, 2022.

What is it?

Folic acid is also called folate. It is found in the body and can be measured with a blood test. Folic acid levels may be used to help find the cause of anemia (uh-nee-mee-uh). Anemia is a condition where there are fewer red blood cells than normal. Folic acid levels also may be used to evaluate malnutrition. Vitamin B12 is necessary for folic acid to be active. A vitamin B12 test is often done at the same time as the folic acid test. Ask your caregiver for the CareNotes™ handout about vitamin B12.

Why do I need it?

Folic acid levels may be done if your complete blood count (CBC) shows anemia and larger than normal size red blood cells. One common cause for low folic acid is the intestines are not able to absorb it. Other causes may be poor diet, alcoholism, or side effects of other medicines you may be taking. Caregivers will explain the test and why you need it.

How do I get ready for the test?

Your caregiver will tell you when to have your blood test done. Do not eat or drink anything, except water, for at least 8 hours before the test. Do not drink any alcoholic beverages before the test You may need to stop taking some medicines before the test. Ask your caregiver if you should wait until after your blood is taken to take your normal medicines.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

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How is the specimen collected?

A caregiver will put a wide rubber strap around your arm and tighten it. Your skin will be cleaned with alcohol. A small needle attached to a special test tube will be put into a vein in your arm or hand. The tube has suction to pull the blood into it. When the tube is full, the rubber strap, needle and tube are removed. The caregiver will press a piece of cotton where the needle was removed. You may be asked to hold the cotton on the site for a few minutes to help stop the bleeding. Tape may then be put over the cotton on your arm.

What do I do after the test?

You may remove the tape and cotton in about 20 to 30 minutes. Call your caregiver to get the results of your test. Your caregiver will explain what your test results mean for you. Follow the instructions of your caregiver.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your lab tests. You can then discuss the results with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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Treatment options

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.