When Lynn went to the doctor last week, several blood tests were done to find out why he is feeling so tired and run down. We got the results yesterday and was very surprised to find out that his hemoglobin was greatly improved (now 14) as were his other lab values. For the most part, everything was within range of what it could be and still be normal. So why does he feel so awful? I think he has ferritin deficiency.
What’s that you say? Ferritin is a protein produced by the body to store iron. When there is insufficient iron in the blood, the body uses the iron stored in ferritin. Once the iron levels in the body improve, ferritin will again begin to store iron but there needs to be a surplus of iron before that happens. Lynn’s blood work shows that his iron level is getting much better (his is 66 and the range is 30-165) which is why his hemoglobin has also improved. However, his ferritin level is only 31 (normal is 30-330). At this level he has symptoms of ferritin deficiency.
With low ferritin, the person gets tired easily and is unable to tolerate even moderate levels of physical activity. They have almost no stamina and will experience sudden loss of energy even with routine tasks. Their skin is often pale and dry and it’s common for them to have thyroid disorders. The thyroid gland is unable to produce hormones when ferritin is low. That may explain way Lynn now has hypothyroidism as well!
What’s the treatment? Taking iron supplements and eating foods high in iron. He has been on extra iron since September. His first lab in September showed his ferritin at 30; in October it was 47, and now it’s back to 31 so he’s not making good progress yet. We haven’t heard yet if his iron intake will need to be increased even further.
While I’m glad to know what’s wrong with him and relieved that it’s not something like liver failure or cancer, it’s also concerning to not know why this is happening. He’s on a diet already high in red meat, eggs, greens–all things high in iron; so why is this happening?
What I can tell you is that it’s exhausting for me. He gets up in the morning and by the time he has eaten breakfast, he’s done in. After that, anything he needs to have done, I do. He’s also suffering from being chilled to the bone; one of the side-effects of the condition. He puts on blankets and we turn up the heat and he’s still cold so he drinks hot tea; and then he is too hot and he drinks a bottle of cold water; and then he’s too cold so he takes more tea; and on and on. Today, since midnight last night I have catheterized him 17 times! That’s almost every hour. The only time it has not been every hour was when he was sleeping.
Between being called back to cath him every 45-60 minutes, I’m making tea or getting more water for him, handing him things, helping to move his arm that won’t move, and trying to help him get comfortable. I have to admit, I’m lost my patience a few times today because I’ve been called away from what I was doing every few minutes. But I also know he’s miserable and if he could control his needs, he would. Just one more thing to add to our list of medical challenges.
Did MS have anything to do with this? Who knows? A year ago he was in the hospital for not eating or drinking. Maybe he lost all his stores then and with the other four hospitalizations, it never had a chance to improve. Plus no one paid any attention to the anemia until this past fall. He was so sick with other things, the focus was on those and not on this so now that the other things are better; it’s ferritin’s turn now.
The blessing is that this is something that can be treated. The curse is that it takes months to see an improvement. With all things in life, there is a balance.
I don’t suppose anyone would like a house guest for the next few months???
If you want more information on ferritin deficiency, I found this website to be informative. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/ferritin-deficiency-symptoms.html