A Bloody Diagnosis: My Lengthy Journey to Manage Iron Deficiency Anemia

A Bloody Diagnosis: My Lengthy Journey to Manage Iron Deficiency Anemia
Last week, I discussed my struggle with overcoming vitamin D deficiency. While my liver transplant has made it easier for my body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, I continue to fight an ongoing battle with iron deficiency anemia. An article in the British Society of Gastroenterology's journal Gut reports that “one third of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients suffer from recurrent anemia.” For IBD patients, the most common causes of iron deficiency anemia are blood loss and decreased iron absorption associated with chronic diarrhea and intestinal inflammation. The most common and easiest method of testing for anemia is measuring hematocrit, hemoglobin, and ferritin levels in the blood. Both hematocrit and hemoglobin tests are performed as part of a standard complete blood count test, but I’ve always focused on just my hemoglobin levels to determine how anemic I am. Normal hemoglobin levels vary depending on gender, age, and ethnicity. The Mayo Clinic defines a normal range as “13.5 to 17.5 grams (g) of hemoglobin per deciliter (dL) of blood for men and 12.0 to 15.5 g/dL for women.” When I was first diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2006, my hemoglobin was 3 g/dL. The doctors were surprised I was even able to function being that severely anemic. Fortunately, I was already in the hospital when my blood was drawn. Because I had been hospitalized for sepsis, I didn’t receive a blood transfusion until the infection cleared and I had become more stable. I think I received at least two or three pints of blood before my hemoglobin increased to an almost normal level. It was a quick fix until my strength returned. With the severity of my Crohn’s and anemia, my discharge orders included a follow-up appointment with a hematologist to monitor my
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