Chronic anemia

Geritol ad from the 1950s from Vintage Ad Browser.

As I wrote previously (in Koilonychia and Spoon nails redux) I’ve had trouble with my iron levels essentially since I was a child, when I was placed on a doctor-ordered regimen of Geritol. (I was about 9 years old.)

It has cropped up periodically, most recently when I had my pulmonary embolism in 2000. Then I had to take iron supplements for months just to bring my iron level up to the very low end of normal. (I can’t remember what the actual value range was but I believe 4 was considered the low end of normal and I was below 2.) I’m fairly confident it hasn’t risen a great deal since then — I’ve been avoiding my family doctor since about 2003 or so but none of the suspected causes of my anemia have really changed so it’s unlikely that the anemia has disappeared. (Note to self: Take that blood test requisition form you have and go get the tests done.)

I don’t know the precise cause of the chronic anemia. I presume it’s a combination of a lifetime of fussy eating (including general, though non-deliberate, avoidance of iron-rich foods) and heavy periods throughout my adult life. I doubt there is any kind of a familial tendency (not that there are any recognized genetic causes of iron-deficiency anemia) — my great aunt and my sister both suffer(ed) from pernicious anemia but I don’t know of anyone in my family who had iron-deficiency anemia except for me; then again I am usually the odd one out in my family.

Back when I’d first posted about anemia and koilonychia a year and a half ago, I’d half-heartedly experimented with taking my multi-vitamin supplements. It had some beneficial effect on my nails, but, unfortunately, I stopped taking the supplements shortly after that and saw the resumption of nail problems including the koilonychia. Recently I’ve become more and more aware of how terrible I feel and I think much of that is down to the continued chronic anemia: fatigue, sleepiness, palpitations or tachycardia, hair loss, dizziness, breathlessness, twitchy muscles (this has been bothering me more and more over the last few months), tingling or numbness (also a growing problem), messed up menstrual cycles, nail issues like koilonychia, and itchiness (even with massive antihistamine usage, I am itchy all the time).

So this time, instead of relying on a multi-vitamin, I’ve ordered a (fairly low 25 mg dose) iron supplement from Well.ca (my favourite drug store, frequently with lower prices than you’d find in a local drug store). I’ll have two-month’s supply from the one bottle I’ve ordered so I’ll give it a try for that amount of time and see if I notice any appreciable difference in the symptoms. In the meantime, I’ll also try to find that blood test requisition slip (it’s tucked inside of a book that I can’t locate right now) and get them done. Probably long past time that I sorted out what other issues I have. (I suspect diabetes is one of them, but I haven’t been willing to find out for sure up to this point, partly because I just can’t afford regular prescription medication right now.)

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