A red blood cell count is a blood test that your doctor uses to find out how many red blood cells (RBCs) you have. It’s also known as an erythrocyte count.
The test is important because RBCs contain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your body’s tissues. The number of RBCs you have can affect how much oxygen your tissues receive. Your tissues need oxygen to function.
Symptoms of an abnormal count
If your RBC count is too high or too low, you could experience symptoms and complications.
If you have a low RBC count, symptoms could include:
- shortness of breath
- dizziness, weakness, or lightheadedness, particularly when you change positions quickly
- increased heart rate
- pale skin
If you have a high RBC count, you could experience symptoms such as:
- shortness of breath
- joint pain
- tenderness in the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
- itching skin, particularly after a shower or bath
- sleep disturbance
If you experience these symptoms your doctor can order an RBC count.
Why do I need an RBC count?
According to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), the test is almost always a part of a complete blood count (CBC) test. A CBC test measures the number of all components in the blood, including:
- red blood cells
- white blood cells
Your hematocrit is the volume of red blood cells in your body. A hematocrit test measures the ratio of RBCs in your blood.
Platelets are small cells that circulate in the blood and form blood clots that allow wounds to heal and prevent excessive bleeding.
Your doctor may order the test if they suspect you have a condition that affects your RBCs, or if you show symptoms of low blood oxygen. These could include:
- bluish discoloration of the skin
- irritability and restlessness
- irregular breathing
A CBC test will often be part of a routine physical exam. It can be an indicator of your overall health. It may also be performed before a surgery.
If you have a diagnosed blood condition that may affect RBC count, or you’re taking any medications that affect your RBCs, your doctor may order the test to monitor your condition or treatment. Doctors can use CBC tests to monitor conditions like leukemia and infections of the blood.
The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario. For further information about these lab tests contact Symbion VIP Diagnostics pathology lab Ahmedabad at 09429410291