Sunday, July 08, 2007

Survey - Do you understand blood test results and the like?

I have created a couple mini-survey questions related to this gluten-free blog discussion (see the two survey questions at right), that I'd appreciate getting your feedback on. Thanks!

Here's what inspires these questions....

So, you have been to your doctor and have a printout of your latest blood test results (like a CBC), and/or urine test results (a complete metabolic panel perhaps), and so forth. Now, can you makes sense of all the various acronyms and reference-ranges and the like on these reports? Note: if you don't have a copy of the results, I suggest always having the doctor print a copy for your records, and I'll get into "why" a bit later.

If you are like most people, you may just take your doctor's word that "everything is fine" and not look further into the test numbers. Or, maybe you quickly scan the list of numbers/results on and see if any have been flagged as being outside the reference-ranges. Or, if you are the really inquisitive and/or diligent type, you always look closely at the numbers and question why the results are what they are, and even research the science behind each line-item. Finally, maybe you just don't care.

Well, I am interested in learning what the distribution of attitudes towards understanding lab-test results (blood, urine, etc.) is among my readers. The reason I ask, is that I am planning a series of blog entries to discuss some of the human physiology aspects of Celiac Disease and why living Gluten-Free is so important to us, and how Celiac can manifest itself on these blood tests and such (and, I don't mean on just antibody tests, but rather on things like your red blood-cell counts, corpuscular volumes, and much more). In addition, I plan to explain not just the tests, but some of the terminolgy surrounding the medical aspects of such tests - like reference ranges, differential diagnoses, contraindications, and more.

If there is sufficient interest, I'm going to begin by providing some "top-down" education about what all the test results mean, and then dive rather deep into the science behind individual tests as it may relate to things like iron-deficiency anemia, B12 anemia, and other conditions that we Celiacs are more prone to (because of nutrient absorption issues and so on).

Deciphering Blood Test Results, especially how they potentially relate to Celiac / Gluten-Free living, is an important thing to me, but I really want to understand what it means to the rest of you. So, please offer your input by voting on the two items at the right. Be honest - if you have no interest, just say so, and likewise if you find this intruiging and want to learn more, let me know.

I have also been working on creating some software to help people with simplified home blood test and lab-test result analysis, and help spot trends over time. I'm also trying to make it simple to identify correlations between multiple test results. My objective is simple: help people become more aware of what is, and is not, "normal" for them, and to identify potential problems at an early enough stage that any long-term negative effects can be averted. The software will be the last stage in my public-education and assistance series, if the demand warrants it.


Shannon said...

When it comes to a CBC, or the like, I don't usually ask too many questions. More often than not when my doctor runs bloodwork they are looking at my iron levels (I was severly anemic in college, whether from being a vegetarian not taking supplements or from undiagnosed Celiac, I don't know.) I recently received the print up of my IgA and IgG bloogwork. No freakin clue what it all means. My doctor is not forthcoming. "It is abnormal." That is all I get. He is old school and does not share details. He is no longer my GI. I am seeing someone new at the end of the month. Hopefully he will have better communication skills. Maybe he will even explain what all those numbers on my test results mean.

Nina said...

Hi Mike,

I'm getting a Cannot process request message when I try to vote in the survey.

Helena Colleen said...

I think your efforts would help people as much of the reason that I suffered so long is that the Dr's that I was seeing were not interpreting my results as abnormal, it wasn't until I took my thousands of dollars in blood work to a nutritionist that I finally was led to the idea that I may have celiac. Much time, energy, and pure suffering could have been avoided if A)the proper tests were given and B) if they were interpreted with gluten intolerance in mind. Thanks

Mike Eberhart said...

Nina, not sure what the "cannot process request" thing is -- must be something with blogger. Perhaps it depends which browser you use (be it IE or Firefox or whatever), or maybe it'll pass. I hope it ends up working for everyone.

Shannon - I'll be sure to write about the IgA and IgG blood work, and what the ranges mean. I have that information here from various sources I can reference. I actually thought the IgG fraction was not used much anymore due to relatively high false-positive rates. More to come on this, and thanks for the feedback Shannon!

Helena, I am definitely with you. Doctors all too often aren't looking for Celiac, and in my own experience did not even think it possible when *I* went to them asking to test for it after learning I had a family history of it. Instead, I had quite a few tests and "treatments" prescribed to me that had absolutely nothing to do with the true problems - in fact, some just made me feel worse. So much of that would have been completely avoidable had my care givers looked in the right direction first. If even a few other people are spared this type of very roundabout diagnoses by any information I put online, it'll be worth it. Thanks for your thoughts and sharing your experience Helena.