The range of normal hemoglobin levels is; 12-16.
The range of normal ferritin levels is; 15-205.
Hemoglobin and iron are proteins in the body. Hemoglobin is in your red blood cells and carries oxygen to your body’s organs. If your hemoglobin is low, this means you are anemic. Ferritin is a protein produced by the body that contains iron. If your ferritin is low, you have an iron deficiency.
In October of 2015, I was admitted to the hospital directly after a trip to the clinic where my labs were drawn. My ferritin level (ferritin is the protein that carries iron in your body) was at a one. The normal range for a healthy ferritin level is 15-205. I had just gotten home from my appointment when my doctor called me and said, “You go straight to admitting at the hospital, I reserved a bed for you, your ferritin is dangerously low.” I was confused, could low iron be so harmful I’d have to be admitted? She just said, “Go, go now.” I was admitted immediately given a blood transfusion and three vials of iron, I remained in the hospital for three days.
The hospital doctor told me I was close to having a massive heart attack. What? No way! My body was not producing enough ferritin. I knew my fibromyalgia symptoms were flaring, I was beyond exhausted! I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t walk to the bathroom and back to the couch without having to take a nap. I felt like I was always walking through sand with ankle weights on. Was this all due to low iron? Yes. This time the flare I was having was due to low iron.
Here is the scariest part of it all, testing my ferritin level was a fluke. I was in for a regular medical checkup. My doctor noticed I look really pale, but the giveaway was my gums, she looked at my gums and said to her nurse, “I want to know what her iron level is.” I balked because I had just had my blood panels done … but I learned your iron levels are not regularly tested, she explained that the test had to be ordered separately.
I knew I was anemic, my hemoglobin would sometimes reach a ten but usually stayed around an eight. I never knew about ferritin, even what it was or did. I do now! Low ferritin is not traditionally associated with fibromyalgia. Neither is anemia. But low levels of hemoglobin and/or ferritin for a person who has fibromyalgia can cause a severe flare. You will not get over a flare until you raise those levels.
You must learn to eat foods rich in iron and cook in cast iron pans. I do both. I also give myself B12 injections once a month and use an iron supplement. Sometimes this is still not enough, so I go in for an iron infusion. I still struggle with keeping my numbers up. I sometimes suffer severe repercussions from the iron infusion, so I need to fully rest for a few days after, this prevents the side effects I can experience. I am still learning how to handle this, but I want to leave you with a word of caution, please ask specifically to have your ferritin (iron level) tested. It is a simple blood test. It is NEVER part of a blood workup and must be explicitly ordered by your doctor.
Ask to have your ferritin level checked!