Dr. Steven Condron performs a colonoscopy looking for a cause to a patient's low iron
Iron deficiency is one of the most common problems in the human body. It's the main reason many people feel fatigued or just not normal.
Now you'd expect a good work out to leave you feeling tired, but for Alan Helgeson something just didn't feel normal. So he had his doctor do a blood test.
"I've had some fatigue and he said low iron can be one of the reasons for that." Said Helgeson.
Iron helps your body make red blood cells, so when your iron is low there are fewer red blood cells carrying oxygen throughout your body. This is why many people like Alan feel fatigued. But to fix the problem doctors need to find it first.
"In a man with iron deficiency we assume there is something wrong with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract unless proven otherwise; and if we don't find anything wrong then we can back up and replace the iron and move on." Said Dr. Steven Condron, a gastroenterologist with the Avera Medical Group Gastroenterology.
That means Alan needs to get his stomach and colon scoped.
"This is really kind of I guess 'opening up the hood' and just being able to check a lot of things or reasons that iron might not be absorbing into my system." Said Helgeson.
The first step is an endoscopy. Dr. Condron checks Alan's stomach for ulcers and other problems that could be causing him to lose blood and iron.
"We want to look for polyps and tumors and inflammation that could be causing GI blood loss." Said Dr. Condron.
After a few quick biopsies, the endoscopy is finished and Dr. Condron is ready to check Alan's colon.
"We try to minimize the amount of trips that a patient will spend with us so we're going to look both in the stomach and in the colon in one sitting so it's two different exams done in one sedated sitting." Said Dr. Condron.
"I'm more comforted that it's comprehensive and that they're making sure they check everything that it could possibly be because I guess it gives you greater reason for comfort I feel better about that." Said Helgeson.
Just like in the stomach, Dr. Condron is looking in Alan's colon for signs of bleeding or any cause of his low iron. A colonoscopy also lets Dr. Condron look for other potential health problems.
"What's most important with this exam is actually of all the things that we do for patients is looking for colon cancer or the precursors to colon cancer which are polyps." Said Dr. Condron.
Not all polyps are cancerous but can cause problems down the road; so Dr. Condron quickly removes them. Aside from a few polyps, Alan's GI tract comes back clean. A clean scope shows there's no bleeding and Dr. Condron is convinced Alan's condition can be treated by adding an iron supplement.
"If it's a gas tank it doesn't make it doesn't make any sense to keep pouring gas in it if there's a leak you want to fix the leak and then move on." Said Dr. Condron.
Alan first thought his fatigue was just a symptom of getting older but he still told his doctor and encourages others to do the same.
"If you're not feeling right then you have to own up and be able to do with they tell you to do and to follow the recommendations." Said Helgeson.
The last thing most people want to go through is a colonoscopy. Unfortunately, it's the best way to identify most GI problems. But take it from Alan and Dr. Condron, in the grand scheme of things it's really not that bad.
"The patient gets a nice nap and when they wake up they don't realize that the procedure has been done!" Said Dr. Condron.
Mild iron deficiency can be prevented or corrected by eating iron-rich foods. Because iron is a requirement for most plants and animals, a wide range of foods also provide iron. But again, most people with iron deficiency will have to supplement in some form. For more information about low iron just call 877-AT-AVERA.