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Chronic anemia plus unexplained symptoms... what could be the cause?

I've supposedly had anemia now for almost a decade.  When I was in highschool, I began feeling dizzy and very tired in class. I had moodswings as well.  I would visit the nurse and she thought it was malnutrition (since most teenage girls don't eat right :P)  However, these problems climaxed around my senior year when I fainted while attempting to rise from my chair in class.  When I was taken to the doctor, they quickly concluded that it was anemia. At the time, I was a vegetarian and it seemed like anemia due to iron deficiency was a reasonable diagnosis.  I quit vegetarianism soon after and also was advised to take dietary supplements to compensate for my less-than nutritious teen diet.  I began drinking Boost and continued to do so all through my life.  While in college, I also made an effort to eat healthier and began drinking Naked and eating PowerBars to make sure I would never suffer some sort of vitamin deficiency.  At times I would also take multivitamins.  About mid-way through my college life I began having trouble with mood swings and my hair began falling out of my head yet growing more on my body.  I was also very fatigued at times.  However, these problems seemed merely the cause of stress and being a hormonal college student.  Near the end of my college studies, I took a turn for the worst.  I began having severe fatigue.  I would become excessively tired and lay down... but as I lay there, my heart beat would become rapid and very hard so much so that it would shake my entire body.  I was also very susceptible to temperature change and would easily overheat or be stricken with extreme chilling.  I also noticed that I wasn't remembering things well, particularly things from the past and couldn't recall some of my friends from highschool.  I also had ALOT of difficulty concentrating.  I used to write songs for my college band friends yet couldn't even focus long enough to create coherent lyrics.  My moodswings worsened as well.  I was once very outgoing and happy... now I was turning into a crazy zombie.  I went to student health to see what was going on... they only ran one blood test to check my thyroid and it came back normal.  My doctor advised me that I wasn't getting enough sleep (which I never did throughout all of college) and that I should try to get a normal 6-8 hours especially with the stress of studying.  All of my symptoms continued to worsen, however, I was too busy trying to finish my degree to seek help.  However, I ate excessive vitamins to try to fight the fatigue and ate mini-wheats like crazy (because they have 90% of your daily amount of iron in one serving), yet there was little improvement.  Mostly, I used mountain dew to stay conscious for the few hours of class a day.  At the end of college, I had to leave home to do an internship... and my life hit rock bottom.  The mood swings, the fatigue, the heart palpitations, the hair loss, the lack of concentration, etc all worsened.  At this time I also experienced a terrible pain in my right side which lasted for a week or two.  I thought it might me some intestinal disruption because I was eating foods I wouldn't normally eat (which were provided by my internship employer) that consisted of a lot more meat and cheese than I would choose to eat; yet, I also worried that something was wrong with my kidney because my family has a history of kidney problems.  At this same time, I had a horrendous moodswing that came after I had had a drink with friends.  Now I was believing that my anemia was a blood sugar problem because there is a history of diabetes and hypoglycemia on both sides of my family.  I struggled to finish my internship... continually I became excessively tired and even nodded off on the job :(  I'd feel out of breath just standing for too long.  When I came back home from my internship, I could hardly stay awake and moving for the entire day... although the work of my internship had been fairly exhausting.  I researched my symptoms over and over and they all came back to anemia.  I had pallor, fatigue, rapid heart palpitations, shortness of breath, a swollen, sore tongue that showed my teeth imprints, the whites of my eyes looked dark and bluish gray, etc.  I finally went to the doctor again... *sigh*  They were going to run a EKG of my heart BUT the nurse refused to give me a hospital gown and I refused to sit topless.  They were going to run a blood test BUT the nurse felt she should make fun of me for being scared of needles instead of actually taking my blood.  The doctor did the usual blood pressure, listen to breathing, etc and said I looked normal but that I probably was anemic again and that I would probably struggle with it for the rest of my life.  He told me to take my SlowFe iron supplements daily.  I found this diagnosis to be unsatisfactory because I had been taking vitamins for MANY years now and also eating meat and I couldn't understand how I could be iron deficient again.  I also asked him about blood sugar problems but he didn't say anything really.  I took the SlowFe and it did seem to help a little but I am too scared of overdosing on iron to take it every day.  The reason I finally decided to post a question was because I have been working out ALOT lately to get myself back in shape (I used to be a dancer but quit for a while to focus on studying).  In my daily workouts I've noticed that I can't really get my muscles on the left side of my body to fully contract.  My right side will literally be burning but I'll do extra sets on my left side because it doesn't feel sore.  I've also been having bad balance problems.  I'm also concerned that there is something worse than anemia going on.  I'm to start a new job soon and am horrified that it will play out similar to my internship.  I still think that maybe there could be a blood sugar issue.  I also worry sometimes that it is Lyme disease because I took a job at the start of college working as a field researcher and got bit by ticks often, even having up to fifteen ticks at one time.  I never had a rash so I never really considered it a viable option but still, I sometimes worry. :P  And then of course, Dr. House always thinks its Lupus! :D  I work in a lab (although not with people stuff) and looked at my blood once.  There was no sickle cells or cellular debris... all the little red cell guys looked normal and happy!  I just want to feel consistently okay.   I feel like this short synopsis doesn't cover everything... there are always things that I think could be something but that I just discount as "normal"... all I know is that if this continues to worsen, my life may someday be unlivable.
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Avatar universal
This is an old blog but I was looking up on the internet to see what may be causing me to feel so horrible and this was the first thing I ran into. I've been experiencing horrible dizzy spells, can't seen to concentrate on anything and times I have trouble concentration on stuff. I had a blood test done and a CT and supposely it came back normal. My white blood count was lower than normal though. I've been told I'm anemic and when I was pregnant I had to take iron supplements. It was a lot worse when I was pregnant and I just can't seem to feel normal. My head feels like it's floating all day long. Kinda have head pressure and just feel too great. I've had this forever and I hate it. I would give anything to feel normal again!!!!
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Avatar universal
This is an old post,I don;t know  how are you doing now but I truly recommend you to see some inmune system specialist. I have been suffering with almost everything you mentioned here I was also biten by insect. Lyme disease test comes negative, but you will be surprise how difficult any inmune illnes is to diagnose no matter how many tests you have..anyhow for sure all you have come from your own inmune system..I am not a doctor but I will bet that is the case.. Good luck!!
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Avatar universal
I am not a doctor but you should really be assessed by a doctor with all the symptoms that you have.  Do you have a family doctor?  My brother took Boost for awhile and it caused him to loose hair and also affected his blood cell count(white blood cell count) .  Once he stopped taking it, he was fine.  I am currently being treated for anemia as well and have just started taking iron supplements for about a month and it really has helped me with the tiredness.  I am still tired, however, I will be seeing a ENT specialist to check out the thyroid.  Perhaps, you should think of having your family doctor do more tests on your thyroid.  Wishing you all the best.  Good Luck!!!
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