The Folate, Serum test contains 1 test with 1 biomarker.
Brief Description: The Folate Serum test is a laboratory test that measures the levels of folate in the blood. Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, including DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, and nervous system function.
Also Known As: Folate Serum Test, Folic Acid Test, Vitamin B9 Test
Collection Method: Blood Draw
Specimen Type: Serum
Test Preparation: No preparation required
When is a Folate test ordered?
A Folate Serum test may be ordered in the following situations:
Evaluation of Anemia: Folate deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia, a type of anemia characterized by enlarged, immature red blood cells. The test may be ordered when anemia is suspected, especially if other potential causes, such as vitamin B12 deficiency, have been ruled out.
Prenatal Care: Folate is vital during pregnancy as it supports fetal development and helps prevent neural tube defects. The test is often included as part of routine prenatal care to monitor folate levels and ensure appropriate supplementation.
Malabsorption Syndromes: Certain conditions, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, can impair the absorption of folate. The test may be ordered to assess folate status in individuals with malabsorption syndromes.
What does a Folate blood test check for?
The B complex of vitamins includes vitamins including vitamin B12 and folate. They are required for the creation of normal red blood cells, tissue and cell repair, and the synthesis of DNA, the genetic material in cells. Both are nutrients that the body cannot make and must be obtained from the diet.
Vitamin B9 tests, also known as folate tests, diagnose vitamin deficiencies by measuring vitamin levels in the liquid section of the blood. The amount of folate in red blood cells is sometimes tested as well.
Folate is a naturally occurring form of the vitamin, whereas folic acid is a supplement that can be added to foods and beverages. Leafy green vegetables, dry beans and peas, citrus fruits, yeast, and liver all contain it. Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, can be found in animal-based foods such red meat, fish, poultry, milk, yogurt, and eggs. Fortified cereals, breads, and other grain products have become key sources of B12 and folate in recent years
A lack of folate can cause macrocytic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are bigger than normal. Megaloblastic anemia is a kind of macrocytic anemia marked by the generation of fewer but larger RBCs known as macrocytes, as well as cellular abnormalities in the bone marrow. Reduced white blood cell and platelet counts are two more test results linked to megaloblastic anemia.
Folate is required for cell division, which occurs in the developing fetus. In a growing fetus, a lack of folate during early pregnancy can raise the chance of neural tube abnormalities such spina bifida.
Folate deficiency is most commonly caused by inadequate intake of the vitamin through diet or supplements, poor absorption, or increased bodily requirement, as observed during pregnancy:
- Dietary deficiencies are uncommon in the United States since many meals and beverages are fortified with vitamins that the body stores. Adults normally have around three months' worth of folate stored in their liver. Dietary deficiencies normally do not manifest symptoms until the body's vitamin supplies have been exhausted.
- Increased demand—this can occur as a result of a range of diseases and disorders. When a woman is pregnant or nursing, in early childhood, with malignancies, or with chronic hemolytic anemias, there is an increased demand for folate.
Lab tests often ordered with a Folate test:
When a Folate test is ordered, it's often part of a broader assessment to diagnose or monitor conditions like anemia, to evaluate nutritional status, or during pregnancy. Several other tests are commonly ordered alongside it:
Vitamin B12 Test:
- Purpose: Vitamin B12 is another B vitamin crucial for red blood cell production and nervous system health.
- Why Is It Ordered: Folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies can cause similar types of anemia. It's important to measure both to determine the specific cause of the deficiency and to ensure appropriate treatment.
Complete Blood Count (CBC):
- Purpose: Provides a broad picture of overall blood health, including red and white blood cells and platelets.
- Why Is It Ordered: To detect anemia and other blood cell abnormalities. Both folate and B12 deficiencies can cause megaloblastic anemia, where red blood cells are larger than normal.
- Purpose: Elevated homocysteine levels can be associated with low levels of folate and vitamin B12.
- Why Is It Ordered: To assess cardiovascular risk, as high homocysteine levels are a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Methylmalonic Acid (MMA):
- Purpose: MMA levels increase with vitamin B12 deficiency but not with folate deficiency.
- Why Is It Ordered: To help differentiate between folate and B12 deficiencies, as only B12 deficiency leads to elevated MMA levels.
Liver Function Tests:
- Purpose: To assess liver health.
- Why Is It Ordered: The liver plays a role in storing folate, and liver diseases can affect folate levels.
- Purpose: To assess iron status in the body.
- Why Is It Ordered: To rule out or diagnose iron deficiency anemia and to distinguish it from anemia caused by folate or B12 deficiency.
- Purpose: Measures the number of young red blood cells in the blood, indicating how quickly they are being produced by the bone marrow.
- Why Is It Ordered: To assess bone marrow response, particularly after treatment for folate deficiency.
Kidney Function Test:
- Purpose: To evaluate kidney function.
- Why Is It Ordered: Kidney disease can affect the body's ability to retain and use folate.
These tests, when ordered alongside a Folate test, provide a comprehensive view of an individual’s nutritional status, particularly regarding anemia and its causes. They can help diagnose specific types of anemia, assess overall health, and guide dietary and supplementation strategies. The specific combination of tests will depend on the individual's symptoms, medical history, and initial test results.
Conditions where a Folate test is recommended:
A Folate Serum test may be helpful in the evaluation and management of the following conditions or diseases:
Megaloblastic Anemia: Folate deficiency is one of the causes of megaloblastic anemia, a condition characterized by enlarged, immature red blood cells and low hemoglobin levels.
Pregnancy: Adequate folate levels are essential for fetal development, especially for the prevention of neural tube defects. Monitoring folate levels during pregnancy ensures appropriate supplementation and reduces the risk of birth defects.
Malabsorption Syndromes: Conditions that affect nutrient absorption, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, may lead to folate deficiency. The test helps identify and manage folate deficiency in individuals with malabsorption syndromes.
How does my healthcare provider use a Folate test?
Healthcare providers use the results of the Folate Serum test to:
Confirm Folate Deficiency: Low folate levels in the blood indicate folate deficiency, which can help explain symptoms or abnormalities associated with folate insufficiency.
Guide Treatment: Based on the test results, healthcare providers can recommend appropriate folate supplementation, dietary modifications, or additional diagnostic evaluations to address the underlying cause of folate deficiency.
Monitor Response to Therapy: If folate supplementation is prescribed, the test can be repeated to monitor the response to treatment and ensure that folate levels return to the appropriate range.
It is important to interpret the Folate Serum test results in the context of the individual's overall health, medical history, and other clinical findings to provide accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.
What do my Folate Serum test results mean?
Normal folate levels may indicate that a person does not suffer from a deficiency and that the signs and symptoms are caused by something else. Normal levels, on the other hand, may indicate that a person's stored folate has not yet been depleted.
A low folate level in a person with signs and symptoms implies a deficiency, although it does not always indicate the severity of the anemia or related neuropathy. Additional tests are frequently performed to determine the source of the deficit. Low folate levels can be caused by a variety of factors.
Dietary folate deficiency is uncommon in the United States. It can be evident in people who are malnourished in general and vegans who do not eat any animal products. Folate deficiency has become extremely rare since the development of fortified cereals, breads, and other grain products.
Folate deficits can be caused by diseases that prevent them from being absorbed in the small intestine. These may include the following:
- Pernicious anemia.
- Celiac disease
- Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- Bacterial overgrowth or the presence of parasites in the intestines, such as tapeworms
- Long-term usage of antacids or H2 proton pump inhibitors reduces stomach acid production.
- Absorption can be considerably reduced by surgery that removes part of the stomach or the intestines, such as gastric bypass.
- Insufficiency of the pancreas
- Chronic alcoholism or heavy drinking
- Some treatments, such as metformin, omeprazole, methotrexate, or anti-seizure medications like phenytoin.
- Increased requirement for healthy fetal development, all pregnant women require an increased amount of folate and are advised to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. People who have cancer that has spread or who have chronic hemolytic anemia require more folate.
If a person is taking supplements to treat a folate deficiency, normal or higher findings indicate that the treatment is working.
Most Common Questions About the Folate Serum test:
Understanding the Folate Serum Test and Its Purpose
What is the Folate Serum test?
The Folate Serum test is a blood test that measures the level of folic acid, a type of B vitamin, in your bloodstream.
What does the Folate Serum test help to diagnose?
The Folate Serum test helps diagnose deficiencies in folic acid, which can lead to a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia. It can also help diagnose malabsorption conditions or monitor the effectiveness of treatment for a folic acid deficiency.
Who might need a Folate Serum test?
Individuals experiencing symptoms of a folic acid deficiency, like fatigue, mouth sores, or changes in skin, hair, or nail color, might need this test. It can also be recommended for people with conditions that might affect absorption of nutrients, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease.
Interpreting Test Results and Abnormal Findings
How are the results of a Folate Serum test presented?
Folate Serum test results are usually given in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). The normal range can vary between laboratories but typically falls between 2.0 to 20.0 ng/mL.
What could high levels of folic acid in a Folate Serum test indicate?
High levels of folic acid in a Folate Serum test can occur due to excessive intake, usually from supplements or fortified foods. It is generally not harmful, but it can mask symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, which can lead to neurological damage if left untreated.
What could low levels of folic acid in a Folate Serum test indicate?
Low levels of folic acid in a Folate Serum test can indicate a deficiency, which can result from inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption conditions, or excessive alcohol intake.
Discussion with Healthcare Provider and Relationship with Other Tests
What should I discuss with my healthcare provider after receiving my Folate Serum test results?
After receiving your Folate Serum test results, discuss with your healthcare provider what the results mean, whether you need any follow-up tests, and if you should make any dietary changes or start taking supplements.
How does the Folate Serum test relate to other anemia-related tests?
The Folate Serum test is often ordered alongside other tests such as the Vitamin B12 test and Complete Blood Count (CBC) to diagnose or rule out causes of anemia.
Understanding the Implications and Health Impact
What are the roles of folic acid in the body?
Folic acid is crucial for proper brain function and plays a significant role in mental and emotional health. It aids in the production of DNA and RNA, works with vitamin B12 to enable red blood cells to carry oxygen, and is necessary for the development of the neural tube in embryos.
What health conditions can be associated with abnormal Folate Serum levels?
Health conditions associated with abnormal Folate Serum levels include megaloblastic anemia, malabsorption conditions like celiac disease or Crohn's disease, and conditions related to alcoholism. Low folate levels in pregnant women can increase the risk of neural tube defects in their offspring.
Risk Factors, Prevention, and Treatment
What factors might influence my Folate Serum levels?
Factors that might influence your Folate Serum levels include your diet, alcohol consumption, certain medications like anticonvulsants and methotrexate, and conditions that affect nutrient absorption.
How can I maintain or improve my Folate Serum levels?
To maintain or improve your Folate Serum levels, ensure a diet rich in folic acid, which can be found in foods like leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals, beans, and citrus fruits. In some cases, folic acid supplements may be recommended.
What treatment options exist for abnormal Folate Serum levels?
Treatment for abnormal Folate Serum levels typically involves addressing the underlying cause. This can include dietary changes, folic acid supplements, or treating any conditions that may be affecting absorption. In the case of high levels, it may involve reducing intake of fortified foods or supplements.
We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.