Posted by: Rob | 2004/10/29

Failed haemaglobin test. 1st time in 30 years.

I'm 52 and have been an erratic fitness enthusiastsince I was about 14. 8 months on 4 months off etc, road running and / or swimming. I've never had problems regaining fitness until now. I recently took up mountain biking with my son with a view to riding the Argus in March. On our first outing in Tokai forest I was horrified when I didn't last 5 minutes. Totally out of breath, swimming vision, tending to faintness. Shortly after that I failed the BTS haemoglobin test when I went for my regular blood donation, which I've also been doing for 30 years. How would a normally healthy male suddenly clock in as anaemic and is this related to what seems to be severe unfitness. The diet is very healthy (married to an Italian!). Had a full medical early September with no neg results at all. I'm 1.72m tall, weigh about 70kg and feel great until I start to exercise. I've been riding three times since the first catastrophe, but have taken things really easy.
Any idea what's going on?

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Our expert says:
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HI Rob

If the haemoglobin test was failed, then there is a good chance that the problem is largely right there. It's not all of it, I'm sure, and on that first ride, being unfit may have had a lot to do with it. I would be interested to know exactly how the rides have gone since, and also what you did after failing this haemoglobin test. The other thing of interest is exactly how low your haemoglobin was at that time, and then when you had your medical, whether it was also on the low, but still normal side. I'm not exactly sure what could cause a drop - it's not inconceivable that your haemoglobin levels would fluctuate slightly, and so it's possible that when you had your medical (I'm not sure if blood tests were done here, I doubt it) everything was fine but your haemoglobin was hovering around the low levels, and then dropped only slightly before your donation was failed later on.

Having said all this, if it is a case of haemoglobin (in the absence of any pathology, because there are conditions that can can cause red blood cells to be broken down, and then you sometimes get symptoms like a reddish colour or blood in the urine, which maybe you have noticed), then the answer is simple - you just have to increase your iron intake, either with tablets or injections. I would certainly recommend that you see a doctor, have a full battery of tests done, because the BTS test is quite rapid and hence not complete, and so there may be something else at play here, and then hopefully once you identify that it is anemia, you can rapidly treat it and get back to the regular exercise. Hopefully it is as simple as that.

Good luck

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Our users say:
Posted by: Rob | 2004/10/31

Hi Doc,
Since the failed test, I've carried on riding, but have adjusted my goals slightly! Results are coming and I'm able to go quite a bit further than that first shock ride. Iron-wise I've been eating biltong, as the budget allows,and eating enough sunflower seeds to drop a turkey at 100 paces.

There were no prelim signs of blood cell breakdown and the coppersulphate test was borderline. The blood started to sink and then popped back to the top, so I'm waiting for the detailed BTS result before going to my doc.

Do you want me to keep you posted on what happens next?



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