Test results, do they accurately point a way forward?
The majority of my doctor’s decisions were based on my blood test results. In the beginning, my HbA1c was taken every 3 months, this was because of the severity of the initial diagnostic reading, which was 18.7, a very high result. They phoned me at 20:00 on the same day that I took the test, with the request to go to the GP’s surgery first thing in the morning. I laughed, they were worried.
HbA1c measures the quantity oxygen and glucose that is binding to the red blood cell, a read like mine says that for a very long time glucose has been taking up most of the parking spots and there were very few left for oxygen to do its job, hence why I was so tired.
I requested the test because I recognized many of the symptoms of diabetes in myself, the main one being weight gain. Despite being very active and trying every diet known to man, I just could not keep the weight off. Other symptoms included my diminishing eyesight, the tiredness (they checked the thyroid but not the HbA1c), I finally dragged myself in when I started to experience nagging headaches, soft ones that persisted for days on end, I didn’t typically suffer from headaches. This was completely out of the norm.
I had done my research and by now I had a pretty good idea that I was a diabetic. I just needed confirmation. My doctor, on the other hand, was not convinced because I did not present as a typical diabetic. In other words, I was fit and not that overweight despite, historically I had attended the surgery with regularity, going in with a variety of complaints that could be tied together under the heading of diabetes. I think because of my obvious belief that all of these symptoms were related, she humored me, but upon leaving her parting words were 'it's probably down to stress or maybe we need to get your eyes re-tested'. She was not convinced.
So, late that same night I got a phone call that confirmed my suspicions and I was back in the Doctor’s office the next morning. Her first question was, 'how did you know?' I listed all the symptoms I had been coming in with plus the current ones, but more importantly I further emphasized that I trust myself to know when something does not feel right. I am the best source of information about myself. She also asked me why I laughed when I was read the results, my response was that there was a certain amount of relief to know I was not imagining things.
That was the start of it all, the poking, the prodding, the blood tests, medication, eye tests, doctor and nurse appointments, it felt like I was going from appointment to appointment, which made me feel even more broken. I went for what was deemed by the NHS, to be a comprehensive full blood count, which tested my liver, kidney and thyroid functions, plus my cholesterol, and for a few of the typical vitamins that a diabetic tends to be deficient in. Unbeknownst to me, the tests would only give a partial picture of what was happening and without having the full understanding decisions were being based on incomplete information.
For instance, when I had my cholesterol done they looked at the lipid profile of HDL and LDL, the good and the bad. What a doctor will typically focus on is the LDL result, if it is high the usual protocol is to put you on statins and as you might know, there is a lot of controversy over the efficacy of taking statins, research does not support the claim that they prevent heart attacks and lower incidences of strokes. Research also demonstrates that high cholesterol does not reflect a higher incidence of a heart attack. What my doctor based her decision on was my elevated LDL result, she dismissed the relationship between the LDL, HDL and the triglyceride levels. If the LDL and HDL levels are pretty even it is telling you that the cholesterol is not sticking to the arteries. The other factor that needs to be considered in conjunction with the above is that if the triglycerides are within a normal range there isn’t any inflammation. I only found this out when I went privately to a biochemist, he took complete blood chemistry and explained the results to me. Research is demonstrating that it is low HDL and high triglyceride levels that lead to heart disease and the LDL should take a back seat in determining future outcomes.
While it appears that all the investigations are in my best interests, they will certainly point me in the right direction when it comes to managing my diabetes, the truth is they actually don’t give a true picture of what is going on. Correct and detailed information is obviously essential for making the right decisions.
In another blog I will discuss what the effects of diabetic medications like hypoglycemics actually do, I didn’t understand the mechanism by which they operated, I just knew I had to get the HbA1c down or I was doomed to a life of organ failure, neuropathy, pain and more weight gain. I now know very differently.