Blood test results

Having felt rubbish since the start of the year, with persistent and often disabling day-long dizziness, overwhelming fatigue, sleeping like the dead, flattened toe nails and tinnitus, last week I had a blood test to check things like my iron levels, red blood cell health, B12, folate, thyroid and various other bits ‘n bobs.  My symptoms were all indicative of anaemia and being as though I have 5 risk factors for the disease and my periods are now heavier than usual due to the peri-menopause it was a no brainer to me that I’d be anaemic.  Er, think again.

I last had my ferritin (iron) level checked back in April and it was 18ug/L.  The normal range is 17-291ug/L so I was right on the bottom rung of the iron ladder, however because I was still within the “normal” range my GP was unconcerned.  She wasn’t the one feeling like a washed out rag doll, however, so I took a closer look at my vegetarian restricted diet, making sure I incorporated more iron rich foods like beans, nuts, quinoa and lentils with both my lunch and dinner every single day and started myself on some supplements.  Iron tablets are renowned for playing havoc with your stomach and making you hugely constipated and as I already have intestinal pain, nausea and difficulty pooping I opted for Spatone which is simply spring water naturally enriched with easily absorbed iron.  I’ve had zero side effects from Spatone, despite recently taking 2 sachets per day (which is suggested for pregnant women with anaemia) rather than the recommended 1.   Fast forward 8 months and my ferritin level has gone from 18ug/L to 46ug/L which still isn’t brilliant (it should really be over 90ug/L) but is a huge improvement.  Couple that with the fact my B12, folate and red blood cells are bang in the middle of the normal range and my symptoms definitely aren’t down to anaemia, which is good on the one hand but still leaves me with crippling unexplained symptoms.

In the UK we usually ring up the receptionist for our blood results and she just tells us that “everything’s fine” if they all come back within the normal range, however I urge people to actually go along to the health centre and request a print-out of the results.  Mine have been revelatory.  If I hadn’t asked to actually see them back in the Spring I would never have known that although my ferritin was “normal” it was only normal by 1ug/L.  I would also have never seen my kidney (GFR) results, which were accompanied by a warning exclamation mark so were anything but “normal”.  My first kidney test was done back in February and came back at 73mL/min/1.73m2.  The normal range for my age is 90-120 so my kidney function was way off.  I queried this with my GP who again was totally unconcerned and said it’s only a snap shot and maybe I was just dehydrated.  I know that I am never dehydrated because I drink pints of water throughout the day but I had to just leave it at that.  When I had further bloods done in April I asked for my GFR to be repeated and this time it was 82, which was an improvement but still nowhere near normal.  This time my GFR test is back at 78, which is indicative of Stage 2 chronic kidney disease.  How this can be considered “normal” and not concern my doctor staggers me especially when mast cell disease can affect the kidneys and coupled with something else I discovered buried in my blood results.

Magnesium levels are kept within very small parameters by our kidneys and the normal range is 0.70-1.00mmol/L, but my result came back at 1.10mmol/L which is considered to be mild Hypermagnesemia, an electrolyte imbalance, and my result was accompanied by a warning exclamation mark.  There is loads of information online about magnesium deficiency and very little about high magnesium, which is usually only found in people taking drugs high in magnesium (which I’m not) or in the end stages of kidney disease.  The fact that it is a sign of poor kidney function, fits many of my symptoms like dizziness, weakness and sleepiness, and couple with my abnormal GFR results to me rings alarm bells.  My GP, though, is still totally not bothered!  It seems that you only get to see a renal specialist if your kidney function is under 40. I’m sure that if they caught chronic kidney disease earlier and tried to find out the underlying cause and treat that less people would wind up in end stage kidney disease and on bloody dialysis!  There is zero preventative health care here in Britain and it drives me insane.

I’m a very cautious person who tries to manage my diseases using proven scientific measures.  I do worry about all the people out there who put themselves on all manner of supplements and hugely restricted diets without involving their GP and having the effects regularly monitored.  If you’re swigging Gaviscon, eating Rolaids or taking magnesium supplements you really should have your magnesium and potassium levels checked regularly.  Ditto B12, folate, protein and iron levels if you need to be on any kind of restricted diet.  If you are on drugs for stomach acid like PPIs or H2 blockers this can interfere with the absorption of nutrients like iron and B12 so again you should have a yearly blood draw.  I know this is hard to achieve here in the UK where we can’t just ring up and request a blood test so it’s important to be firm with your overworked and stressed GP – it’s your body.

Having said all that I probably won’t do anything about my abnormal results, though I’ll probably request my magnesium and kidneys are re-tested in 6 months time.  If the results remain the same then I’ll battle my GP on referring me to a specialist to find out what’s going on bearing in mind I have mast cell disease which predisposes me to all sorts of potentially serious complications and about which my GP admits to knowing absolutely nothing just as she admits to knowing nothing about my Ehlers-Danlos and the complications of that.



5 thoughts on “Blood test results

  1. GPW

    The ferritin level needs to be interpreted with the other haematinics and your full blood count. Spatone is a waste of time – you might as well lick a nail three times a day. It’s well-marketed spring water.
    Chronic kidney disease sounds alarming but is something that needs to be managed with simple risk factor modification (if present) and 6-12 monthly monitoring. I really wish someone would give it another name like ‘normal and variable kidney function expected at a certain lifepoint blood test anxiety-provoking disease’. The UK has a huge amount of preventative health care and you will likely be on a register of patients with ‘abnormal’ renal function and will be called in for monitoring. This will include blood tests, urine tests, blood pressure checks, medication reviews and probably more.
    A lot of exclamation marks are there to be ignored, depending on the context.
    I’m all for patient-empowerment and open access to results, but remember that it takes considerable skill to be able to interpret several dozen numbers with medication, history, risks, symptoms, timescale and the position of the planets in the zodiac. Maybe not the last bit.
    I used to work as a GP in the UK but I have moved away for various reasons. It was difficult to convey every single blood test to every patient in a meaningful way.
    Rarely being demanding gets you somewhere. When you have a complex medical history it detracts your doctor’s thought process away from the real issues at hand and makes it difficult to have a meaningful consultation where the two of you part ways with some satisfaction.
    I would suggest you do some reading before you post inflammatory comments like these.


    1. Jak Post author

      You know zero about my 50 year medical history, my experience of the NHS, the results of all the other blood tests I had done last week and didn’t mention yet you feel qualified to tell me how to both react and behave. Nowhere in my post did I tell anyone to be “demanding” so please read the bloody post properly before having a pop at me. I’m not surprised you moved away from the UK if that’s how you treated your sick, anxious and bewildered patients. Good ridance is my view.

      And if Spatone is so shit how come my iron levels have improved nearly 3 fold while I’ve been taking it?

      Being a GP is about bedside manner, something you clearly need to work on.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. artfulblasphemer

    Wow, I’d like to say I am surprised by GPW’s wading into this to chastise a blogger about her considerable knowledge of her own health. Patients are not the enemy to be labeled as “demanding” and whose attempts to advocate for themselves put down as distracting chatter. Jak is a human being with a very complex set of medical issues and who is not getting the level of attentive, concerned care that she should be—which isn’t an accusation meant to get your dander up, it’s a fact. She’s not a “bad” patient—none of us are, rather, we are complex and highly unusual and are often better informed than a General Practictioner simply because what we have are rare, poorly understood conditions in the first place.


    1. Karen, The Walking Allergy

      Jak, your retired doctor commenter highlighted one of the BIGGEST issues in medicine. Being told that we are wrong about our bodies becuase they can’t explain it. I really should start selling “I’m impossible” t-shirts. Every single time a physician told me that I wasnt right about what my body was saying me, they were wrong, and I was right. “You can possibly have been dojng hand stands on that broken arm.” “Dermatographia is not caused by food allergies.” “Nobody is allergic to rice.” “True allergies dont change over time.” “There was no edema in your main airway, so you didnt have anaphylaxis (last I checked, my sinuses are part of my airway,) and anaphylaxis isnt ruled out because of lack of edema in the throat.” “That BP cant’t be right, you’d have passed out” Here’s the thing, saying thigs like that are a lose-lose-lose scenario. The doctor feels bad because they can’t help, the patient skips telling the doctor the correct story- they modify it because maybe the doctor was right, or they don’t want to be seen as ‘whining’, which confuses the doctor further. My new fav line:
      “By far the best source of information on managing your MCAS is your body itself.” We are all so different, there arent an ‘standard practice’ guidelines, well, except what my doc wrote on my file “This patient knows what she is talking about. Trust her, do what she asks.” That works! Now, off to find Spatone.


      Liked by 2 people


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