Why you need to understand lab tests

I’ve learned over the years that I have to get a copy of any lab work we have done. There have been too many occasions I’ve taken my children to the doctor with a host of symptoms and they have run blood work. I am contacted and told “everything’s normal” and that’s where my concerns are dismissed. No further investigating is done, no further questions and no resolution. This scenario is not just limited to my kids, I’ve had it happen to me more times than I can count.

I began insisting on lab copies several years ago and now with digital records this is much easier to go. Most of the time something on them is not normal. Often times they are actually flagged by the lab as being out of range.  Now in some cases like BUN ratio this might not be relevant for a child because that can happen if they are not well hydrated when the blood is drawn.  In some cases the labs used the wrong ranges for the child’s age so you need to make sure the correct ones are listed. But in other cases like iron, or vitamin D, thyroid levels, blood count etc., it really is relevant if they are flagged as abnormal or just not in the optimal range.

So as you can imagine I was very upset to read the office visit summary for my son last week and see that one of his diagnosis is “anemia, unspecified”.  Hmmm? Odd it never mentioned at the visit.

This was in reference to some blood work that was run several years ago. It made me wonder why his doctor did not also order iron this time to see if it had normalized. Especially when I’m reporting that one of his symptoms is fatigue.  No wonder the poor kid is tired a lot. He has a low hematocrit, elevated TSH, low FT4 and low vitamin D.

I’m glad I took the initiative to get the labs and read them. I’m also glad I’ve spent years educating myself on reading lab work and working with reference ranges for healthy functional levels. Gosh how many other kids in that practice are walking around with low vitamin D and iron anemia? His vitamin D was so low the lab flagged as deficiency.

We have begun vitamin D of course. We are starting iron also. I will need to find a practitioner to do further investigation of his thyroid because his TSH is higher than it should be for someone whose thyroid works properly. However, low vitamin D or iron will both also affect the thyroid.

I chose to write about this because of how many times I encounter this same sort of issue on my support forum or with parents I am conferring with. This tells me it’s a very common issue to have deficiencies missed that are found on lab work.

We are paying doctors for a service, which is to evaluate your child’s health. If they are not doing that properly or lack the knowledge to do so, find someone else.  You wouldn’t keep taking your car to a mechanic that only changes the oil and ignores the fact your tires are bald and the brakes are worn out. That would be dangerous. So too is ignoring iron anemia, vitamin D deficiency or hypothyroidism as they all contribute to health problems.

I am not blaming doctors because it’s also important to remember that most of our doctors are now bound to treat using medical insurance rules which tie their hands on what tests they can order, and what things they can treat…and worse yet, how they can treat it. So the best intentions to help you may not help until you find a doctor that does not participate in this profit driven system of health insurance. These private doctors are not bound by these rules and actually have the free rein to treat you based on what they feel is actually needed.

Every time we have come across symptoms backed by lab work I have had to employ a private doctor and pay out-of-pocket but I do get results. They are able to diagnose, run the tests needed and actually treat the condition without hesitation that my “insurance” will refuse.

I still see no reason a pediatrician should be missing low vitamin D at 23 when it’s flagged by the lab. Thankfully my son has a smart mommy who knows how to recognize that “L” on the lab work and buy him some vitamin D!

By the way, adequate vitamin D levels are the best prevention for the flu.

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One thought on “Why you need to understand lab tests

  1. I called the doctor for my son’s blood work, they said it was fine. I asked for a copy of the results. The nurse called me back almost immediately to say I needed to come in…turns out he was low in zinc, iron and vit D, but they hadn’t bothered to check the results properly. You’re article is very very true!

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