Red Blood Cell (RBC) / Erythrocyte count Lab Test

Red Blood Cell (RBC) / Erythrocyte count
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Clinical Definition of Red Blood Cell (RBC) / Erythrocyte count

What are red blood cells? Red blood cells commonly known as erythrocytes are the largest quantities of cells found in the blood and provide blood with its characteristic colour. They are transporters of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. RBCs are not capable of dividing or repairing themselves and are therefore continuously developed and eliminated. They are developed in the bone marrow. RBC test calculates the number of red blood cells (RBC) in a sample of whole blood. Levels of RBC out of normal range are a sign of certain conditions such as anaemia and polycythemia.

What is RBC test? The red blood cell count is actually a blood test which is performed to know the number of red blood cells that a person has. This test is also known as the erythrocyte count. The normal range of red blood cells in the blood varies slightly from one laboratory to the other but is generally 4.2 - 5.9 million cells/mm. An RBC test cost or the RBC test price is very minimal and is affordable.

Why do I need RBC test?

When the RBC count in the blood drops or the RBCs is affected, it usually leads to anaemia in the individual. The symptoms of anaemia are a weakness, fatigue, dizziness, reduced hunger, shortness of breath, chest pain, paleness of nails and skin, cold hands and feet etc. When the RBC count goes too low, the body of the individual and develop several complications. The RBC count test is a part of the complete blood count which measures the count of RBCs, WBCs, haemoglobin, platelets etc. The symptoms of red blood cell deficiency are shortness of breath, bluish skin colour, breathing issues, an erythrocyte count test is prescribed by the doctor.

 

What other tests might I have along with RBC test?

Usually, the RBC test is a part of the complete blood count test. In the complete blood count test, the following are measured:

  • RBC count
  • WBC count
  • Platelets
  • Haemoglobin
  • Hematocrit

The above counts provide a clear picture of the blood profile, and there would be no other test ideally needed along with the RBC count test.

What do RBC test results mean?

There is an RBC normal range defined for men and women. For men, the normal RBC count is 4.7 to 6.1 million cells per microliter (mcL), while for women red blood cells normal range is 4.2 to 5.4 million MCL. For children, it is 4.0 to 5.5 million MCL.

If your red blood cell count is higher than normal, it means that you have erythrocytosis which could be due to dehydration, smoking, kidney cancer, heart disease, bone marrow disorder or pulmonary fibrosis. Sometimes the increased RBC count may be due to drugs such as the antibiotic – gentamycin or the blood pressure controlling drug – methyldopa. The high count of RBC can also be due to low oxygen levels in the blood. A few performance-enhancing drugs also cause increased levels of RBC. Hence it is important to ensure that when you visit a doctor, you should let him/her know the medication that you are on. Administration of certain medication can do high red blood cell count treatment.

If your RBC count is lower than normal, i.e., red blood cell deficiency could imply bone marrow failure, anaemia, hemolysis, malnutrition, leukaemia, thyroid, nutritional deficiency etc. Low RBC count can also be because of the intake of certain drugs such as quinidine, chemotherapy drugs etc. Low RBC causes fatigue and anaemia.

How is RBC test done?

In the RBC blood test, the technician draws blood from the vein from the inside of the elbow by puncturing the site for the blood draw with a needle and pulls the blood into the syringe. Once the blood is drawn, the blood sample is sent to the laboratory for analysis.

Does RBC test pose any risk?

The risks with RBC count test is the sample as that of any blood draw wherein there is a possibility of bruises, bleeding or even infection. There is a minor pain when the needle is inserted into the vein.

What might affect my test results?

Any medication that you are on as mentioned above, or even if you a pregnant woman, the RBC count test can vary. Also, there may be minor changes in results from laboratory to laboratory.

How do I prepare for RBC test?

Since getting the RBC count is a very simple procedure, there is no special preparation needed. There is no fasting required to be done, although it is advised that if you are on any medication or if you are pregnant, the doctor should be informed about it.

Understanding results of Red Blood Cell (RBC) / Erythrocyte count

Reference RangeInterpretation
Male4.5 to 5.5 mill/c.mm
Female3.8 to 4.8 mill/c.mm

‘*A Reference range is a set of values which helps the healthcare professional to interpret a medical test. It may vary with age, gender, and other factors. Reference ranges may also vary between labs, in value & units depending on instruments used and method of establishment of reference ranges’

References

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003644.htm
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/high-red-blood-cell-count/basics/definition/sym-20050858
  3. https://curesearch.org/Low-Red-Blood-Cell-Count
  4. http://www.nicklauschildrens.org/tests/rbc-count
  5. http://www.leehealth.org/healthinformation/hie multimedia/1/003644.htm