Tuesday, August 17, 2010

G6PD Deficiency

I was browsing another Peace Corps applicant's blog the other day, and noticed that they had received their PC medical clearance with a G6PD deficiency... which reminded me that I had recieved my medical clearance with a G6PD deficiency as well. I received my medical clearance back in June, while I was still studying abroad in Singapore. At the time, I was just so excited to finally have medical clearance and looking forward to the next steps towards getting my official invitation that I didn't look up what a G6PD deficiency was.

The G6PD test was one of the many blood tests that I was required to do in order to get my Peace Corps medical clearance, and actually one that is not routinely given at the Georgia Tech Health Center. I had to ask the doctors there to include that test, and I distinctly remember that the cashier had to actually create a new 6-digit treatment code for it since it wasn't already in their checkout system.

So anyways, I got the results from all my PC medical tests back all at once and didn't know how to read most of the result charts so I didn't notice that anything was off about my G6PD test. According to the G6PDD.org website, this deficiency can cause "hemolytic anemia, which means that oxidative stress can cause the premature distruction of red blood cells' due to the lack of an enzyme called reduced glutathione which G6PD helps produce". Okay, I have no idea what the previous sentence means. I also looked up G6PD deficiency on Wikipedia, but that didn't help at all either.

According to an article on Kidshealth.org,
"G6PD deficiency is an inherited condition in which the body doesn't have enough of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, or G6PD, which helps red blood cells (RBCs) function normally. This deficiency can cause hemolytic anemia, usually after exposure to certain medications, foods, or even infections. Most people with G6PD deficiency don't have any symptoms, while others develop symptoms of anemia only after RBCs have been destroyed, a condition called hemolysis. In these cases, the symptoms disappear once the cause, or trigger, is removed. In rare cases, G6PD deficiency leads to chronic anemia."

Reading articles with so many medical-related terms is pretty much all gibberish to me. I think that G6PD deficiency basically means that I'm allergic to some things and could thus have an anemic reaction to certain foods that I have never heard of, like fava beans or everyday drugs like ibprofun. It also includes reactions from some malaria medicines (the ones that end in -quine, so good thing I was prescribed doxycycline malaria pills for my summer abroad), which explains why I only received PC medical clearance for countries that could accommodate my deficiency. And apparently this deficiency is hereditary and usually prevalent in African-American males and people who live around the Mediterranean, neither of which is a category that I fall into.

I guess my G6PD deficiency must not be too severe, since I'm 22 and have never heard of it before from my annual checkups and the Georgia Tech Health Center doctors didn't notify me of anything unusual after my test results came back. So I'm not particularly freaked out about having this deficiency or anything, but I think this is interesting... and now I'm wondering how long I've had it and why its never ever been diagnosed before, or if the Peace Corps has a certain standard that they test for and if my G6PD level falls below that, then it is considered a deficiency.


sw said...

I have it as well and never knew until I joined the military. I ate fava beans as well as legumes all my life and never had a problem. I was wondering if it will effect me down the road because I still keep eating these foods and never have any problems.

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