Folic acid is a synthetic form of an essential vitamin that the body needs for good health. The natural form of folic acid, which is called folate, comes from eating foods like green leafy vegetables or citrus fruit. When a person is deficient in folate he or she may become anemic, and a doctor may give the patient a folic acid injection to boost the levels of the vitamin in the body.
Folate plays a role in the normal process of cell division and helps the production of red blood cells. When the levels of the vitamin are too low in the body, the person makes less red blood cells than normal. Fetuses in the mother's womb are special cases when it comes to folate deficiency, as they need to have an efficient way of dividing cells in order to grow. A lack of folate in the mother's diet can result in the child having underdeveloped spinal cords in a condition called spina bifida. Deficiencies of folate can also occur when people have problems like issues with the liver or kidneys, or suffer from alcoholism.
Most healthy people can obtain enough folate from food sources, and tablet supplementation is also available in vitamin products. Folic acid injection, as it is more complicated and requires more expertise to administer, is generally meant for people with recognizable medical conditions, or who are at significant risk of illness due to folate deficiency. Babies, older children and adults may all receive a folic acid injection after a medical examination determines a low level of folate in the body, which could lead to medical problems. The amount, and number of doses of the vitamin, depends on the needs of the individual patient.
Signs of a deficiency in folate can be mild, and include symptoms like diarrhea and headaches, as well as a tendency to forget things. When a person experiences the anemia of a low red blood cell count, he or she may feel weak and look pale. Some people may not notice any problems even when suffering from low levels of folate. In some cases of anemia, another vitamin deficiency is involved, which is that of vitamin B12, and a folic acid injection is not sufficient to improve the condition.
An allergic reaction can occur after a folic acid injection, although this is rare. Symptoms of this include breathing issues, a rash on the skin, and a high temperature. As an injection product may contain substances that have their own risks, such as aluminum, overdoses of the folic acid product may be dangerous, even though folate from food appears to be safe even in high quantities, as of 2011. Patients receiving the folic acid injections should also inform their doctor of any medicines they take, as these may interact badly with the vitamin.