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Serum folate (folic acid) is a test that is commonly used to monitor folic acid status. Although it is frequently used, the results can be variable. When trying to uncover the cause of an anemia, an RBC folate assay should be performed instead as it more accurately reflects folate levels at the time the RBC was produced.
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Anemia: A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.
Folic Acid: A B-complex vitamin that functions along with vitamin B-12 and vitamin C in the utilization of proteins. It has an essential role in the formation of heme (the iron containing protein in hemoglobin necessary for the formation of red blood cells) and DNA. Folic acid is essential during pregnancy to prevent neural tubular defects in the developing fetus.
Red Blood Cell: Any of the hemoglobin-containing cells that carry oxygen to the tissues and are responsible for the red color of blood.
Serum: The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.