Folic Acid Overdose

by on June 6, 2012

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate classified as a B-vitamin. Like any other substances, it is possible to overdose on folic acid although it is very rare. The exact effects of a folic acid overdose are unclear, although it appears that an overdose is not likely to cause serious problems or complications, even during pregnancy. However, in case an overdose is suspected, you should seek medical attention right away.

Folic Acid Overdose Symptoms

Since folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, overdose is rather unlikely to happen.

Water-soluble vitamins including folic acid are excreted into the urine as such any excess amount of such vitamin is just eliminated through the urinary system without causing any harm. However, the possibility of an overdose cannot be discounted especially in patients taking high doses of folic acid in long-term situations such as during pregnancy. In rare cases, patients have shown overdose symptoms that include:

  • Bitter or metallic taste in the mouth
  • Changes in mood (excitability, irritability, or hyperactivity)
  • Changes in behavior (psychotic symptoms)
  • Gastrointestinal side effects (such as nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea or gas)
  • Rash
  • Troubles sleeping (such as unusual or bizarre dreams)
  • Possible seizures (common in patients who have history of seizure disorder)
  • Zinc deficiency

In most cases, patients who overdose on folic acid “mask” the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because folic acid can effectively treat symptoms of anemia (the obvious signs of vitamin B12 deficiency) without actually treating the nerve damage due to the lack of vitamin B12.

Taking too much folic acid supplement may also increase the risk of coronary event or heart attacks, especially in people with underlying or history of heart disease.

Treatment for an Folic Acid Overdose

If an overdose of folic acid is suspected, contact your healthcare provider or your local poison control center immediately.

In most cases, an overdose is managed with supportive measures, which consists of treating the side effects or symptoms as they occur. If necessary, patients are given intravenous fluids to correct fluid imbalance or certain medications to treat side effects (e.g. antiseizure drugs in case of seizures). Laboratory and/or diagnostic tests may be required to check for other potential side effects and to monitor your progress.

More importantly, prevention is always better than cure. Be sure to read the product label or your prescription label before taking this drug and each dose. Do not take more than the prescribed dose. This health supplement is not intended to substitute proper diet. Eating a well-balanced diet that consists of foods rich in folic acid can help decrease the need for supplementation.