John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Doctor, doctor, gimme the news

Last week at the end of my physical, the doctor told me that when the results of my blood work came back from the lab, he would do one of two things. If the results were unremarkable, he would send me a copy. If there were problems, he would call me to set up a follow-up appointment to discuss the results.

So when the doctor's office called last Friday to set up a follow-up appointment, I was a little worried. But just a little. My assumption was that my cholesterol levels were high. No big deal. I briefly considered the possibility that I might have diabetes, or a rare blood disease, but decided that both were unlikely.

But as it turns out my cholesterol is fine. Better than fine, in fact. The doctor said it was "wonderful." Woo hoo! If my glucose levels are any indication, I don't have diabetes either. And my liver and kidneys appear to be functioning normally.

Strangely enough, it turned out to be a blood problem after all. My red blood cell count is higher than it should be; specifically, my hemoglobin and hematocrit levels are above the recommended level. The odds are high that the elevated RBC count was a result of dehydration. At the doctor's request, I fasted for twelve hours before the physical, and was very likely slightly dehydrated as a result. Dehydration can cause elevated red blood cell counts.

On the other hand, it could be symptomatic of polycythemia vera, a bone marrow disorder that causes the overproduction of blood cells. As disorders go, it's not a tremendously serious one; according to Yahoo! Health, "most patients do not experience any problems related to the disease after being diagnosed." But that's not to say it's entirely harmless. Patients with polycythemia have an increased tendency to form blood clots, which could result in a stroke or a heart attack. That's not so good. But the odds are good that I don't have polycythemia. It's a rare disease, particularly so among people under 40. Also, polycythemia causes increased production of all kinds of blood cells, and my white blood cell and platelet counts are normal. Nevertheless, it's worth checking out. Hence the follow-up appointment: he wanted to take more blood, and run the tests again.

I should know more next week, but I'm not worried. I'm certain I was dehydrated at the time; I know I hadn't had any water in more than 12 hours; and I had a heck of time producing a urine sample. I suppose the one doesn't rule out the other, but it'd be a heck of a coincidence. Time will tell, though.

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