Monday, April 5, 2010

Let numbers not be the be-all and end-all of treatment

During the days when calcium was being incessantly leeched from my bones, my blood levels of Serum Calcium were normal. Always. Not once did they fall below normal. Yet, it is an undeniable fact that there was something terribly wrong. The wrong calcium level in my dialysate has caused me so much harm, it is today the single biggest challenge in my life. Every step that I take, every movement that I make, I am reminded by the jabbing pain in my back, ribs and feet, of the mistake I made by taking this easy.

My Calcium level was normal. There should not have been any problem. My Calcium level is normal even now. Theoretically, I should have no problem.

Medical science has made great advances. But the mysteries that are hidden in the human body have not yet been solved. Will they ever be solved? I doubt it. As of now, at least, we should all be wiser than to simply take the values shown in a lab test at face value and treat ourselves based on that. There is a lot hidden behind those numbers.

This puts an additional burden on doctors. Doctors cannot afford to treat their patients based on lab tests alone. Careful study of the patient's history, keeping abreast with the latest that is happening and tons of common sense are inevitable to truly try and address the patient's problems.

Doctors must treat individuals as individuals, each of who is different. The numbers are there merely to serve as guidelines, not to dictate the ultimate course of treatment. The numbers are different for different people. And it is not possible for each person's 'normal' range to be clearly established. This makes medicine more of an 'art' than an exact 'science'. What needs to be looked at more closely is how a patient is 'feeling' than what his or her lab tests are showing.

Patients should be more proactive in their own treatment. They know their own bodies best. They know when they feel well and when they don't. They are the best interpreters of the numbers. Patients need to do their research and help the doctors help them.

2 comments:

Madras Hash said...

Read this powerful article (link below) by the inventor of a diagnostic test. After that you can Google for reactions to this article and they too make interesting reading without disputing any of the facts in this article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/opinion/10Ablin.html

Kamal D Shah said...

Thanks for the link Vinod. Yes, really interesting that the inventor himself had to write this. Some of the reactions also make sense.