The complete blood count (CBC) test is a blood panel that your doctor will run to check the different cells found in your blood. The CBC test checks three different types of cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. After receiving your CBC results, you might be confused about what all the different numbers mean. Here is how you can understand your CBC test results.
Why would my doctor order a CBC test?
Often doctors will order a CBC during a routine doctor’s visit to see how your cell counts look. Some other reasons your doctor may order a CBC test could be to check for the following:
- Overall health
- Disorders such as anemia or leukemia
- Undiagnosed medical condition
- To monitor a diagnosed health condition
- To monitor medical treatments and medications
Your doctor may want to order a CBC if you have been experiencing unusual bruising, fevers, weakness, and extreme fatigue. Those who are getting chemotherapy treatments will also receive regular CBC tests to check blood cell counts.
Understanding the CBC Test Results
After you get your CBC test results, you will notice there is a column that is labeled “reference range” and a column that has your results. This is where you will find if your numbers are high, low, or within normal limits.
Red Blood Cell Count
Your red blood cells have the important job of taking oxygen through your entire body. Several tests can be run on your red blood cells in a CBC test. These include the following:
- Hematocrit shows the percentage of your blood that contains red blood cells.
- Hemoglobin shows how much oxygen the protein your blood cells carries.
- RBC count shows how many red blood cells were in your blood sample.
The normal ranges for each of these tests are as follows:
- Male: 38.3-48.6 percent
- Female: 35.5-44.9 percent
- Male: 13.2-16.6 grams/dL
- Female: 11.6-15 grams/dL
Red Blood Cell (RBC) Count
- Male: 4.35-5.65 trillion cells/L
- Female: 3.92-5.13 trillion cells/L
White Blood Cell Count
Your white blood cells are part of your immune system. These important cells fight off infections, viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders in your body. A white blood cell count, or leukocyte count as it is sometimes called, measures how many white blood cells are in the sample of blood taken.
A white blood cell differential checks how many there are of each of the five different white blood cell types. This test is an important snapshot of your health and helps your doctor see how your immune system is functioning.
The normal ranges for white blood cells do not depend on gender like some of the other tests. These ranges should fall into the following:
- 3.4-9.6 billion cells/L
Platelets help your blood clot when you receive a cut or wound. Your CBC test will have a section that shows how many platelets are in the sample of your blood. Normal platelet ranges are as follows:
- Male: 135-317 billion/L
- Female: 157-371 billion/L
What do my results mean?
If you find that you have some numbers that are out of range, this could be caused by a number of different factors. Your doctor will be able to tell you what your out-of-range numbers could possibly mean.
Abnormal results could indicate a simple problem that supplements, diet, and exercise could easily fix. However, if your doctor is concerned about your numbers being too high or low, they will advise you on what steps and/or tests you will need to take next.
While you might be tempted to try and diagnose the problem yourself, it is best to discuss your out-of-range numbers with your doctor. This way, you will receive the proper care and help you need.
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