Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Health Update

Ever since I turned thirty about five and half years ago, I've dealt with one chronic illness after another. Should you be a reader of any duration, you've likely encountered a few posts like this one. My intention is always to educate. I'm processing my feelings by dissecting the particulars, inviting you to join in on the analysis if you wish. Follow me in my journey, a frustrating trek through mystery ailments and medical conundrums.

The most recent evidence of a potential new condition showed up in recent blood work. Four levels turned up elevated beyond normal readings. The offending four are hemoglobin, hematocrit, zinc, and the immunoglobulin antibody M. If one or two of these in isolation were flagged, it would not be troublesome. All four in tandem is a different matter and requires further investigation.

To give you a better idea of what these findings indicate, I'm going to totally cheat here. I'll cut and paste in the definition of each metric from a Google search. Please see below.

  • Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs.
  • Hematocrit is the proportion of your total blood volume that is composed of red blood cells.  
  • Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement.
  • Imunoglobulin M, or IgM for short, is a basic antibody that is produced by B cells. IgM is by far the physically largest antibody in the human circulatory system. It is the first antibody to appear in response to initial exposure to an antigen.
I have an appointment with a hematologist in around two weeks. Most doctors in specialized practice schedule first and diagnose later. In this situation, the doctor to oversee my case required a fairly vigorous pre-screening first. This took the form of several pages of paperwork, alongside consultation with my primary care doctor. The lab levels must have indicated that, in his judgement, something more substantial might well be wrong. Had it not, the hematology nurse would have never called me back earlier this week to formally schedule an appointment.

Specialists usually don't require anything up front besides a referral from another doctor. I've never experienced a situation before where consultation with a doctor came only after my case was reviewed. I imagine it's a way to cut down on the backlog of patients, separating the truly needy from those who don't need further examination.

What do these test results mean? At this stage, they could mean lots of things. The primary care provider took into account several months of complaints and corresponding labs before referring my case in deference to someone else's expertise. Over the summer, I completely lost my appetite, didn't eat solid food for three months solid, and lost fifty pounds. A condition called polycythemia may be to blame. Once again, I'll cheat and borrow someone else's definition.
Polycythemia is a condition that results in an increased level of circulating red blood cells in the bloodstream. People with polycythemia have an increase in hematocrit,hemoglobin, or red blood cell count above the normal limits.
It makes sense that this condition is suspected. My primary care doctor suspects that allergies are to blame. The levels recorded are too high, yes, but not to an extreme sense. The worst case scenario is cancer of the bone marrow, and while rare, it is an option that cannot be taken off of the table quite yet. And this is where I leave you, for now. 

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