Sometimes B12 and folate blood tests are ordered independently from each other, but the B12 folate blood test is growing in popularity because it can help to determine the presence of a deficiency. Sometimes deficiencies in these items is due to dietary habits, but most often it is due to the presence of an anemia or an autoimmune disease. These two vitamins are important because they cannot be produced by the body whatsoever.
B12 is essential for nerve function. Folate helps B12 be able to form normal red blood cells, help to repair cells and tissues, and even provide DNA synthesis. If these vitamins are not at normal levels, the damage that occurs within the body may not completely repair itself, which is why this blood test is ordered on a regular basis to determine the state of a person’s general health.
When To See a Doctor About the B12 Folate Blood Test
This blood test is ordered most often when there are behavioral changes seen in certain population groups. The elderly are especially vulnerable to having low levels of B12 and folate in their body. It may be ordered as part of a complete blood count during a checkup or in conjunction with a number of additional tests.
People who are experiencing tingling, burning, or numbing sensations that are unusual may also wish to have these vitamin levels checked. Without enough B12 or folate, the myelin which protects nerve endings can become damaged and cause unusual sensations or create involuntary muscle twitches.
If there are conditions that may cause malnutrition, then this blood test can also be useful to determine the rate of malabsorption. This is most often seen with alcoholism and inflammatory bowel conditions like Celiac disease, but may also be present with liver disease, certain cancers, and cystic fibrosis.
In addition to the symptoms described above, a deficiency in B12 and folate may cause fatigue, muscle weakness, pale skin, a sore tongue and mouth, paranoia, diarrhea, and dizziness.
What Do My B12 Folate Test Results Mean?
Normal test results generally mean that there is another cause of a person’s bothersome symptoms. In certain cases, however, it may also mean that the levels of these vitamins have not been used up because the health condition has just started. If a deficiency is suspected when test results are normal, then an MMA blood test is typically ordered as a follow-up.
If there are low levels of these vitamins detected, then in the developed world this typically indicates a pattern of alcoholism, Celiac disease, or pernicious anemia. Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis may also cause deficiencies in these vitamins.
Having high levels of these vitamins is considered an uncommon test result. Certain conditions, such as severe liver disease, AIDS, and diabetes are known to cause this to happen. People in a stage of heart failure may also see higher than normal results. Being overweight or obese naturally increases B12 and folate levels.
Here’s What You’ll Want To Know Before Being Tested
People who take Vitamin A or C supplements on a regular basis also tend to have higher than normal levels of B12. Taking an oral contraceptive or having estrogen therapy can produce a similar result. For this reason, it is important to speak with your medical provider about all medications and supplements that you take on a regular basis.
In the developing world, the #1 cause of low B12 and folate levels is malnutrition. It may also been seen at times with people who follow a vegan lifestyle and do not take vitamin supplements or eat fortified cereals, flours, and other grains.
Certain medications can also cause changes in B12 or folate levels. Protein pump inhibitors can often lower B12 levels, sometimes quite dramatically and quickly. Certain anti-seizure medication and blood sugar controls are also known to lower B12 and folate levels.
It is important for women who are pregnant to increase their consumption of these vitamins. Folate in particular is critical to the development of the spinal cord and brain stem. There is also an increased need when there is a Stage 4 cancer or certain chronic anemias affecting a person’s health as well.
Resolving a deficiency found on the B12 folate blood test can be as simple as taking a supplement, changing eating habits, or receiving a shot. In the developed world these deficiencies may be rare, but are still important to detect. If you suspect that you may have a deficiency in these vitamins, then speak to your doctor about the pros and cons about this blood test so you can correct a health condition if necessary.