Folate Deficiency Diagnosis: Folic Acid Blood Test

image001Folic acid blood test is done to assess how much Folate or vitamin B12 is present in a blood sample. We require both Folate (folic acid) and Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) in our body as they help in the production of red blood cells and making of cells. Deficiency of Folate is indicative of alcohol abuse while lack of Vitamin B12 in blood is a sign of pernicious anemia. We can get Vitamin B12 and Folate naturally from animal products and leafy vegetables respectively.

Why Do I Need a Folic Acid Blood Test?

Usually this test is done to make sure that the medications you are taking are not interfering with your body’s ability to absorb Folate or Vitamin B12. Another reason for having this test may be to determine whether you have a Vitamin B12 deficiency or not. The symptoms that might indicate a B12 deficiency include mood changes, fatigue, numbness in the feet and hands, memory loss, headaches and having difficulty in walking and thinking properly. You might also need a folic acid blood test to determine if you have Folate deficiency the symptoms of which are weight loss and diarrhea. Since Folate and Vitamin B12 levels cannot be measured separately, their quantity is assessed using this single combined test.

Folic acid is vitally important for pregnant women, breastfeeding moms and even women who are trying to conceive a baby.

When and How Often Should I Take a Folic Acid Blood Test?

There are various aspects which govern the frequency and timing of a folic acid blood test. Patients suffering from a chronic disease have to be monitored closely and might require the test more frequently than other patients. In case of an emergency, this blood test would be done immediately. While in other situations, it might be delayed until a symptom is noticed in the patient that necessitates the performance of this test. The folic acid blood test might have to be repeated several times in those patients who are being given treatment for folate or vitamin B12 deficiency to check if the treatment is working or not. There is no specific time for this test and it can be done at any time of day or night. However, the timing of the test does take into account the amount of drugs you are using and timing of your last dose.

How Can I Prepare for the Test?

For this test, your blood will have to be drawn by a healthcare worker. Inform him about any allergies that you might have or blood thinners that you might be taking which can result in too much bleeding. Any bad past experience of drawing blood like having nausea or fainting must also be shared with the healthcare worker so that he remains ready to handle the situation if it occurs again. It is recommended that you stop eating or drinking at least10 hours before going for the test. You can have water though and the medications that you have been prescribed to you, but make sure to ask your doctor how early should you take them before the test.

How Is a Folic Acid Blood Test Performed?

Folic acid blood test is performed by drawing blood from the patient’s arm, which is usually done by a healthcare worker. He is going to first stop the flow of blood to your arm by wrapping a strap on your upper arm. This way the veins in your lower arm are going to become a lot more pronounced as the blood volume in them will increase, making it easier for the healthcare worker to insert a needle in it. He is then going to rub the site where he will be inserting the needle with an antiseptic preferably alcohol and then slowly put the needle into the vein. The healthcare worker will then connect a tube to the needle and start drawing your blood. He will wait until enough blood has been collected after which he is going to untie the strap. The healthcare worker will round off the process by putting a gauze pad over the puncture site immediately after taking the needle out of the vein. He is going to ask you to put pressure on the gauze for a little while after which he will apply a bandage over it.

What Should I Do after My Folic Acid Blood Test?

After your folic acid blood test is done you must consider your diet seriously, especially if the test results reveal that your folate levels are lower than normal. Start taking a healthy and balanced diet including foods which contain folate in them. There are many foods that can give you the recommended daily intake of folate that your body requires for functioning properly. These include leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and fortified cereals. Eating these foods is going to ensure that you never become a patient of folic acid deficiency anemia. If you find that taking folate rich foods is not enough for fulfilling your body’s folic acid requirements, then you might have to consider taking folic acid supplements. Ask your doctor about such supplements especially if you have been diagnosed with anemia. Pregnant women must make sure that they take ample amount of folic acid during their pregnancy as it can help in preventing birth defects in newborns. The folic acid blood test also reveals information about your vitamin B12 levels as well and can give you an idea whether you have B12 deficiency or not.

Nutrition is the best way of getting the necessary amount of folate as well as vitamin B12. You just have to make sure that you take in as many folate and vitamin B12 rich foods as possible like the family in this video has done: