In February of 2005, I was diagnosed with GERD, which is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. I think it’s just a fancier term for acid reflux. My doctor put me on Prilosec OTC, but after a few months, I started taking Prevacid and continued to do so until now. He was a good doctor and ran periodic blood work on me. The testing became more routine - meaning every 3 months - after I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, about 2 years ago. One of the things he noticed was that my red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit and in particular, my platelet count, had all dropped below normal levels. My white cell count dropped too, but never below normal. I became anemic and was diagnosed with thrombocytopenia. All of my counts continued to drop and no one knew why. To give you an idea of platelets, the normal range falls between 150,000-450,000 / 10ˆ3/uL. Mine had dropped to 113,000. My doctor couldn’t pinpoint the problem and when he moved, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Fortunately, I found a new one, his replacement, and I not only like her very much, I appreciate the fact that she has been very diligent and concerned about my well being; because up until now, there had been no viable explanation for my blood problem. Believe me, I’ve been poked and prodded, including a CT scan of my brain, to no avail. No one could find any blood leakage. Why was I so anemic? Why were all my blood counts dropping? Bear in mind, I have no health insurance and all costs come out of pocket. The thoughts of more testing and the expenses involved were beginning to take their toll. It was all so perplexing. I was probably staring at a bone marrow biopsy, too, and that frightened me. My mind went to work. Why was my bone marrow not producing enough platelets? Think, Dave, think. I knew it wasn’t leukemia, but could I come up with a solution?
I’ve always been rather good at investigating things and I Googled just about everything I could to figure out the cause of this problem, but too many variables popped up. Besides, I’m not medically trained, by any means, other than playing doctor when I was a kid. Well, I’ll leave it at that. After I felt I had explored all avenues, I sat down to rethink my strategy. I asked the doctors if any of this could be related to diabetes. No, they responded. All along, I had requested copies of all blood work, so I had files dating from February, 2005, through the middle of August, 2008. I scrutinized all side effects of every prescription I was taking, including possible conflicts, but nothing stood out. Suddenly, a light bulb lit up in my head. I typed prevacid+low platelet count in Google for one simple reason: it was the only medication I had been taking all this time.
BINGO! It wasn’t the mother lode, but the answer may have been staring right at me. Here are some of the possible side effects, although rare, of taking Prevacid:
Was this it? Did I find something my doctors, including specialists, weren’t aware of? After lab work in August, I had a follow up visit with my doctor. I told her of my discovery. She had a PDA or Palm Pilot of some kind, looked it up and said, yes, you are right; there might be a correlation between taking Prevacid and low platelets. She instructed me to stop taking it and to return a month later for blood work. Why not? It’s worth a shot. After a month, guess what? My counts all came up! For instance, the platelet number shot up to 163,000 and that falls within the normal range. Am I suddenly cured? Was Prevacid the culprit all along? My doctor feels rather confident it is, but I was left with another problem. During that month, the GERD came back with a vengeance. She had advised me to take Zantac while off the Prevacid and while I took 300mg/day, the maximum amount; it did absolutely nothing for me. Subsequently, she prescribed Protonix. We’ll have to wait and see, since it is very similar and in the same class of drugs as Prevacid, if this affects my blood the same way. If it does, I don’t know what will be done about the GERD because chronic low blood/platelet counts and anemia are more of a serious health risk, but she has ordered a battery of tests to determine if I have underlying issues causing GERD, details of which I will not get into. Trust me; you do not want to know.
Please rest assured, the reason for taking my own path to find an answer was not to usurp the power or knowledge of a doctor, nor was it from a lack of faith. Quite the contrary. Why not join the fight? Besides, I don’t think a physician could possibly know everything about every malady, nor do I think they should spend every waking hour studying all medications and possible side effects. That’s too much to ask for. Doctors see hundreds of patients a week. To explore every complex issue with every patient is absurd. Of course, that is why they go to medical school, but we are all humans here and if I can research something, by golly, I will. Who cares where the answer comes from? Besides, it might have been solved down the line by a hematologist or some other specialist.
I am through taking Prevacid, no doubt about that. My doctor will continue to monitor my blood. We can’t be absolutely positive this is the answer to my problem, but it does seem to point in that direction. Certainly, I’m not advocating self diagnosis by any means and anything and everything you find must be discussed with your primary care physician. Clearly, the Internet has opened so many doors, but we must understand that there are plenty of crackpots out there and we must be able to ascertain the differences between truth and fiction, but I think being able to do online research today is an incredible asset. Who would have thought it possible 10 years ago? Happy birthday, Google. Thanks for your help. It’s not every day a patient gets to impress their doctor. Thanks for saving me a ton of money, too.