We put a lot of faith in GPs, specialists and reception staff when we’re given test results. Most of the time, however, all we’re told is whether something is ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’, and either given a prescription, told to make a certain lifestyle/diet change, or sent on our way. I’ve found over time, however, that it can be incredibly useful to go back and ask for your test results, or at least the reading of a level of something in particular.

You get sent for a blood test because they want to check a few things like B12, iron and thyroid because of your chronic exhaustion. You don’t hear back from anyone and give the GP reception a call. They tell you it’s ‘all normal, no further action required’. Most would accept that and move on, perhaps with mixed feelings. Glad that there’s nothing wrong, but frustrated that there are no answers, no possible things to try to improve your situation. If you ask for the levels you could confirm that ‘all normal’ advice. Or you could find that you’re actually borderline. Dig a little deeper, and you may find that you’re ‘normal’ given the ‘normal range’ your particular doctors surgery uses in your county, but would be classed as slightly above or below ‘normal’ if you lived a few miles North, or in America or France, for instance.

You get a call from the doctors receptionist to say you’re ‘a little low’ on something and that a prescription will be waiting for you. You don’t get told what this ‘something’ does, what being deficient means for your body, or just how low your level is. You could find out and do a little research – Google is both an amazing thing and yet your findings should be taken with caution and scrutinised – which may point you in a direction worth exploring. You may find that you really are ‘just a little low’ or maybe find that you’re ‘chronically low’. You could learn what this ‘something’ does, reasons to explore for why you’re low, what symptoms you have that may be explained by this deficiency, other ways you could help yourself through diet/lifestyle changes.

We miss all of this information when we don’t know our numbers. We risk being ill-informed, potentially misdiagnosed, we miss avenues worth exploring.

Some GP surgeries can be a little tricky, not wanting to give away information. Usually, as is the case with secretaries for hospital specialists, results can’t be given out prior to the doctor/surgeon looking at them first. Once this has been done, you should be free to know your level(s).

When I last called my GP’s receptionist, I put some confidence in to my voice and asked something like :

‘I’ve recently been given a prescription for … as I was a little low on … I was just wondering if you could please advise my … level from the last blood test, just for my own reference’.

It may be better to know than not to know, just to have the information handy, to avoid anything slipping by unnoticed, and to empower yourself with your own health.

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