What Are Blood Tests For?
The complete blood count or CBC test is used as a broad screening test to check for such disorders as anemia, infection, and many other diseases. It is actually a panel of tests that examines different parts of the blood and includes the following:
White blood cell (WBC) count
WBC is a count of the actual number of white blood cells per volume of blood. Both increases and decreases can be significant. White blood cell differential looks at the types of white blood cells present. There are five different types of white blood cells, each with its own function in protecting us from infection. The differential classifies a person’s white blood cells into each type: neutrophils (also known as segs, PMNs, granulocytes, grans), lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils.
Red blood cell (RBC) count
RBC is a count of the actual number of red blood cells per volume of blood. Both increases and decreases can point to abnormal conditions. Hemoglobin measures the amount of oxygen-carrying protein in the blood.
Hematocrit measures the percentage of red blood cells in a given volume of whole blood. The platelet count is the number of platelets in a given volume of blood. Both increases and decreases can point to abnormal conditions of excess bleeding or clotting.
Mean platelet volume (MPV)
MVP is a machine-calculated measurement of the average size of your platelets. New platelets are larger, and an increased MPV occurs when increased numbers of platelets are being produced. MPV gives your doctor information about platelet production in your bone marrow.
Mean corpuscular volume (MCV)
MVC is a measurement of the average size of your RBCs. The MCV is elevated when your RBCs are larger than normal (macrocytic), for example in anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. When the MCV is decreased, your RBCs are smaller than normal (microcytic) as is seen in iron deficiency anemia or thalassemias.
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH)
MCH is a calculation of the average amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin inside a red blood cell. Macrocytic RBCs are large so tend to have a higher MCH, while microcytic red cells would have a lower value.
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC)
MCHC is a calculation of the average concentration of hemoglobin inside a red cell. Decreased MCHC values (hypochromia) are seen in conditions where the hemoglobin is abnormally diluted inside the red cells, such as in iron deficiency anemia and in thalassemia. Increased MCHC values (hyperchromia) are seen in conditions where the hemoglobin is abnormally concentrated inside the red cells, such as in burn patients and hereditary spherocytosis, a relatively rare congenital disorder.
Red cell distribution width (RDW)
RDW is a calculation of the variation in the size of your RBCs. In some anemias, such as pernicious anemia, the amount of variation (anisocytosis) in RBC size (along with variation in shape – poikilocytosis) causes an increase in the RDW.
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