Doctors will often request a complete blood count (CBC) which provides them with information about the major parts of your blood. This information can help in overall diagnoses and in tracking healing progress. Even if you score outside of normal in an area, it may not be cause for concern. While this information is valuable it may not be conclusive of anything wrong. However, blood counts can also point to health problems.
Also keep in mind that each lab reports differently. So compare the standard numbers they give you to your individual numbers so you are making accurate conclusions.
A Hematologist is a doctor who specializes in blood disorders.
5 Parts of the CBC:
White Blood Cell Count (WBC) – White blood cells fight infections.
Normal Range Men or Women – 5 to 10 K/uL
Red Blood Cell Count (RBC) – Red blood cells carry oxygen to your cells.
- Normal Range Men 4.5 to 5.9 M/uL
- Normal Range Women 4.1 to 5.1 M/uL
Platelet Count – Platelets stick together to stop bleeding.
Normal Range Men or Women 150,000 – 450,000 platelets/mcL
Hemoglobin Value (HGB) – Hemoglobin is the is part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen. It also moves carbon dioxide to your lungs and out of your body through breathing.
- Normal Range Men 14 gm/dL to 17.5 gm/dL
- Normal Range Women 12.3 gm/dL to 15.3 gm/dl
Hematocrit Value (HCT) – This is the measurement of the number of red blood cells in your total blood count.
- Normal Range Men 41/5% to 50.4%
- Normal Range Women 36.9% to 44.6%
Common Blood Disorders
If the measures of your red blood cell count, hemoglobin and hematocrit values are low you have anemia. You become anemic when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells. This lack of healthy red blood cells means your cells aren’t getting enough oxygen which leads to fatigue and makes your heart work harder.
Symptoms of anemia can include: A fast heart beat; shortness of breath; dizziness; trouble breathing when walking, climbing stairs, or talking; swelling in hands and feet; pale skin; extreme tiredness and chest pain.
Causes of anemia: blood loss from trauma or surgery; cancer radiation; chemotherapy; low iron levels; vitamin and mineral deficiency; major organ problems; Sickle cell disease and Kidney disease.
Hemoglobin Levels to Determine the Severity of Anemia
- Mild – 10 to the lower limit for your age
- Moderate – 8 to 10 g/dL
- Severe – 6.5 to 8 g/dL
- Life threatening – less than 6.5 g/dL
Treatment of anemia:
The underlying cause needs to be determined and then treated. The goal is to raise the hemoglobin level and overall health of the red blood cells.
Blood Transfusion: If the hemoglobin level needs to be raised quickly, a transfusion of red blood cells may be given. A blood transfusion may be necessary after surgery, trauma or disease. A blood transfusion is often done when the hemoglobin level is less than 8 g/dL. Your blood does have to be matched with a like blood type. Rarely is there a bad reaction but it can happen.
Increase Consumption of Iron Rich Foods: If your anemia is mild a change in diet may be the answer. Increase your intake of diet rich foods like: dark green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, prunes, raisins, apricots, peaches, beans, meat and fish.
Drugs or Supplements: Starting on Iron, b12 or folic acid supplements can also help anemia. This approach is slower but can help those who are borderline.
This is when you do not have enough platelets in your blood to clot normally.
Symptoms include: Petechiae on your skin; these are small red or purple spots. If you frequently get nose bleeds, your gums bleed or cuts bleed longer. Watch for black or bloody stools, or brown or red urine. Heavy periods can also be a symptom.
Aspirin and aspirin containing products can interfere with your platelets proper function.
Neutropenia is when you do not have enough white blood cells. Remember white blood cells fight infections. This can make you more susceptible to getting and staying sick.
If your white blood count is low adopt some habits to keep you from catching an illness such as:
- Wash your hands often
- Shower or bath at least once per day
- Cover any scrapes or cuts with band aids
- Swim only in pools treated with chlorine. Stay away from lakes and rivers until you are healthier.
- Avoid crowds and sick people
- Use an electric shaver not a razor
- No pedicures or manicures
There is a lot of helpful information in a complete blood count (CBC). Remember to go over your results and concerns with your doctor. Don’t panic. Just take what you find to help you make better decisions about your health.
A free publication Understanding Your Complete Blood Count from the NIH Clinical Center can be printed HERE!
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