Everything You Need to Know About Taking a CBC Test
Are you procrastinating on going to your next doctor’s visit because you were supposed to get bloodwork done?
Whether you’re afraid of needles or you’re worried about the possible results, getting bloodwork done can be a scary experience. A CBC test is one of the most routine blood tests that doctors order, but most people don’t know anything about them.
If you’re worried about your upcoming CBC test and want to learn more information about it, keep reading below. Our article goes over what a CBC test is, why your doctor might request it, what you can expect from the test, and what your results may mean.
What Is a CBC Test?
A CBC, or complete blood count test, is a common test that measures the levels of the different elements in your blood. The results of this test can give your doctor a general overview of your health and indicate if you have a variety of disorders.
A complete blood count test will read the levels of your red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. If you’re not sure what these components are, we’ve briefly described them below.
- Red blood cells are the cells that deliver oxygen from your lungs throughout your body
- White blood cells are the blood cells that fight off infections
- Platelets are cells that make your blood clot, so you stop bleeding
- Hemoglobin is the protein that enables the red blood cells to carry oxygen through your body
- Your hematocrit is the percentage of your blood that is made up of red blood cells
Why Do You Need a CBC Test?
CBC tests are routine tests that doctors will order for your annual check-up or even with other lab work. Since the test checks so many important levels of your blood, it’s also one of the first diagnostics run if you go to the doctor with a complaint that can’t be identified.
If you’ve previously been diagnosed with a blood disorder, complete blood count tests can also help your doctor monitor the progression of it.
How To Prepare For a CBC
Typically a CBC doesn’t require any preparation on your part, but on occasion, your doctor may advise you to fast beforehand if you have other lab work.
If you’re unsure about your instructions and you’ve already scheduled your blood test, call your physician to make sure that you don’t need to do anything specific. Otherwise, your results could be off, or you may need to come back to redo the test.
When you get a CBC, a phlebotomist will draw blood from a vein in your arm or hand, fill a vial, and then put a bandage over the draw site. Depending on what type of office you’re at, they may run your test in-house or send it out to another lab, but either way, you’ll get the results fairly quickly.
It’s normal to experience some mild bruising and tenderness where the blood was taken, but that will go away in a couple of days.
Understanding Your Results
As we mentioned above, there are a lot of components that are tested when you get a CBC. So if your results show that one level is particularly high or low, it may give your doctor a better idea of what’s going on. We’ve made a brief list of some normal ranges in a CBC test so you can better understand your blood test results.
Red Blood Cell Count
- Male red blood cell count: 4.35-5.65 million cells/mcL
- Female red blood cell count: 3.92-5.13 million cells/mcL
If you have a high red blood cell count, that could be caused by:
- Lung disease
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Exposure to Carbon Monoxide
- Polycythemia Vera
If you have a low red blood cell count, that could be caused by:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Bone marrow disorders
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Intake of specific drugs
- Male hemoglobin: 132-166 grams/L
- Female hemoglobin: 116-150 grams/L
The amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells can be a good indicator of your iron levels and if you’re anemic. If you have an iron deficiency, then your body doesn’t make enough hemoglobin to carry oxygen through your blood.
- Male hematocrit: 38.3-48.6 percent
- Female hematocrit: 35.5-44.9 percent
Your hematocrit levels often go hand-in-hand with your red blood cell count and your hemoglobin. Abnormal hematocrit levels can be an indicator of similar problems such as anemia or an iron deficiency.
White Blood Cell Count
A normal range for white blood cell count is 3,400-9,600 cells/mcL.
A high white blood cell count could be from:
- An immune disorder
- An allergic reaction
A low white blood cell count could be from:
- Autoimmune disorders
- HIV or AIDS
- Bone marrow disorders
- Diet deficiencies
- Male platelet count: 135,000 to 317,000/mcL
- Female platelet count: 157,000 to 371,000/mcL
If you have a high platelet count, it could be from:
- Recovery of an injury
- Recovery from surgery
- B12 deficiency
If you have a low platelet count, it could be from:
- Specific Medicines
- Autoimmune disorders
- Chronic bleeding
It’s important to know that some labs have different ranges of what’s normal, so if you’re off on our range, there’s no need to panic. If you’ve got some abnormal blood test results, make sure to consult with your doctor to find out the source of the problem.
Don’t Fret Your CBC Test
Now that you know all about CBC lab tests and you have an idea of what to expect, you shouldn’t be afraid to get one done anymore. A CBC test can reassure you that you’re in good health, or it can warn you of any health problems so you can resolve them.
If you need blood work done but don’t know where to begin, take a look at our blood testing services. We offer blood testing at assisted living centers, home health offices, physicians’ offices, and even from the comfort of your own home.