I'm anemic, but I can't remember the numbers

I figured this would be a fairly simple Googling, but it turns out not to be. My doctor did some blood work on me and said I’m anemic, which explains a lot of my feeling ill for the last 3 months. Now, she told me that in women my age (mid-30s) iron levels were usually between x and y where I think x was 30-something something-or-others and y was 40-something something-or-others. Mine was somewhere in the low 20-somethings.

I don’t know what measurement I’m looking for, though, when trying to find out more info online, other than it relates to how much iron I have in my blood. It’s really hard to get ahold of the doctor because it’s the school health clinic and they’re SLAMMED and I don’t feel right trying to get her to call me back so that I can ask her questions to let me google my problem better.

So does anyone know what she was likely referring to?

It might help if you are able to say whether or not the test was done right in the office at the time of the visit.

If so, I suspect she was talking about your hematocrit.

The hematocrit is a number which reflects the percent of total blood volume occupied by red cells, and usually runs in the high 30s (about triple the number for the hemoglobin).

When you are anemic, you have fewer and/or smaller blood cells, so your hematocrit drops.

In a woman (of menstruating age), the commonest cause of anemia is iron deficiency, so an inference is often made that a low hematocrit is from iron deficiency. Because this is an easy bedside test, it’s often a starting point for further workup.

You might get a formal complete blood count, or CBC, as a follow up. If the red cells are small, then further tests might be done to see if you are actually iron deficient (tests such as Total Iron Binding Capacity, or perhaps a serum Iron).

My OCD requires me to correct my own hastily-written point out that the hematocrit is actually the packed volume of all cells, but as an ordinary office test for packed cell volume usually reflects mostly red cells in the normal non-leukemic patient.

She drew the blood and called me the next day with the results. It’s definitely iron deficiency (probably because I’m a vegetarian to begin with, so I tend to run on the low end, then when I got sick in January, I stopped cooking–both because I didn’t have the strength and because I didn’t want to get my family sick–so my diet since then has been haphazard and not well balanced.)

I’m having the exact same problem! I found one website that actually had a little chart that said, “if your hematocrit number is this, you are mild/moderate/severely anemic” but little else…and I forgot to bookmark it, and haven’t found it since. I do know my number was 9 (now was that hematocrit or hemoglobin? Dang.) and that made me moderately anemic. Doubling my iron did not raise it, so he tripled the iron…I get that bloodwork result today.

I told my doctor that if my levels don’t rise after this test and a triple dose, perhaps we should look into a different form of iron supplement. I know there are liquid supplements out there, and as a gastric bypass patient I know pills aren’t absorbed as well. He agreed, but wasn’t going to switch me over just yet. I’ve made an extra effort to increase the iron-rich foods, and the vitamin c, but it is a slow process, they say.

I think now I need to believe when they say gastric bypass patients really shouldn’t donate blood. I think that was what tipped the scale for me. My numbers were fine before I donated, and they do say that iron reserves in us can be so low that a single donation can deplete your reserves, so to speak. Plus I get horrendously heavy periods of late.