Friday, March 19, 2010

About my Blood.

I know this won't interest most of you, but for those of you that are interested in medical conditions this might be fascinating.  I'll try to define all the medical terms so everyone can understand.

I have a genetic disorder called Beta Thalassemia Minor.  My grandpa had it, my mom has it, my aunt has it, my brother and my cousins on my mom's side all have it.  My medical terminology textbook defines it as a hereditary form of hemolytic anemia in which the beta hemoglobin chains are defective and the production of hemoglobin is deficient, creating hypochromic microcytic red blood cells.

Hemoglobin is the compound in blood that carries oxygen to the cells from the lungs and carbon dioxide away from the cells to the lungs.  People have both alpha and beta hemoglobin chains so there is also an Alpha Thalassemia Minor.

Hypochromic means that the red blood cells don't have as much color as they should.

Microcytic means that the red blood cells are smaller than they should be.

This really affects my day-to-day life very little.  Apparently I don't have as much energy as most people and I definitely get "head-rushes" when standing up too quickly more easily than others.  I am still able to donate blood though.

Here's where things get tricky.  I went to my doctor awhile back because I was feeling very nauseous in the mornings.  I was fine as long as I was in bed, but the minute I got up I felt like I was going to lose the previous night's dinner.  I was always fine after eating.  It was very similar to pregnancy-induced morning sickness, but I was pretty sure I wasn't pregnant.  So when I went to the doctor he thought it was probably just a little stomach bug and gave me some Prevacid, but had me get blood work done just in case.

A couple weeks later I got my blood work results in the mail.  They put my results in one column and the normal range in the other.  More than HALF of my results were not within the normal range!  I was told that I have mild anemia and that I should take an iron supplment daily and have my blood work checked again in a month.  This seemed odd to me, so I went to the Internet to do some research on my Beta Thalassemia Minor and iron-deficiency anemia as well as blood work results so that I could decipher all the codes.  Turns out lack of hemoglobin affects many parts of your blood, but doctors like to label you iron-deficient if your Hgb (Hemoglobin) levels are lower than "normal".  This is a good indicator of anemia in most people, but low Hgb levels are normal when you have a defective beta hemoglobin gene.

So when my doctor's nurse called after I got my paperwork, I reminded her that I was Beta Thalassemic.  She had never heard of this, couldn't say it back to me, and had no clue how to spell it.  She said she would talk to the doctor and call me back.

Two weeks later I finally got a call back.  Now the doctor wanted me to take two iron supplements daily and have my blood work done again in two months.  So I told them I would try, but if it made me feel bad I was going to quit because it is entirely possible to overdose on iron.  I usually forgot to take my night pill, but always took my morning pill and had my blood work done again after the requisite two months.

I got my results back and low and behold my Hgb levels were exactly the same after two months of iron supplements.  So I now know that I do not have iron-deficiency anemia, but just the Beta Thalassemia Minor that I've known about since birth.  What a waste of money.  In all fairness though, a lot of Beta Thalassemics are also iron-deficient.  Couldn't they have just tested my iron levels though?

Anyone need some Slow FE?  I have half a box that I no longer need.

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