It seems no matter what, when you go the doctor, urgent care clinic or emergency room, you end up having to need some kind of blood test. Whether it is for a yearly physical, a current health issue or even some mental health issues, you are going to get stuck with a needle. For those who hate needles, this can be not only frustrating, but a reason to avoid going to the doctor. But, do you know what the blood tests are called or what they can tell you? Read on.
CBC (Complete Blood Count)
This is the most common blood test ordered, especially if you are sick. It counts the number of blood cells, by type. These values can indicate certain problems. Here is a simplified version of the different blood cell types, what their function is and what abnormal levels mean:
- White Blood Cells (WBC): There are a few different types, but these are the cells that fight infections whether it is viral or bacterial. Depending on the type of white blood cell that is increased or decreased, the doctor may be able to tell any specific locations or diseases. High counts generally mean an infection of some type, but less commonly, it also can be an indicator or cancers or malignancies. Low counts generally mean a problem with medications or chemotherapy and some bone marrow conditions.
- Red Blood Cells (RBC): These cells are what have the haemoglobin on them to carry oxygen to other cells throughout the body. Low RBCs can indicate anaemia, which has a variety of causes. A high RBC count can indicate problems with the bone marrow or low oxygen level.
- Platelets: These cells are an integral part of the clotting system and are what keeps us from bleeding excessively. A high platelet count can indicate bone marrow issues or severe inflammation while a low platelet count can indicate prolonged bleeding or some other conditions.
Basic Metabolic Panel/Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (BMP/CMP)
These tests check the metabolic status of your body. Checking for things such as glucose level (blood sugar level), electrolyte level and kidney function with the CMP also checks liver functions. Each of these levels can tell a variety of things including health status, potential problems with diabetes, deficiencies or excesses in various electrolytes like calcium
, kidney problems
and liver issues.
A lot of times, this is ordered when you are sick to show how the body is reacting to the illness. The values found in these tests can help problems with medications and will direct your medical care to ensure that the treatment that you are receiving will help you to recover as soon as possible.
- H-A1c: If you are diabetic, chances are you have had this test. Since red blood cells generally live about three months, the A1C can measure the amount of sugar that has been around for about three months. While daily glucose checks are important for day-day-day monitoring, the H-A1c can give the doctor an overall view of your blood sugar control over the last three months and make any medication changes that are necessary.
- Cholesterol: This is a test that is done for people who currently have high cholesterol that is being treated, a family history of high cholesterol and over the age of 40, when it is most likely to appear. Testing not only for total cholesterol, it also looks at HDL (High Density Lipids, the good kind), LDL (Low Density Lipids, the bad kind) and triglycerides. This test can not only tell you what your cholesterol is, but whether you are doing enough to change it. For instance, if the HDL and the LDL are appropriate, but the triglycerides aren't, that can be a simple diet change. It can tell you whether you need to exercise more and, if you are taking medications for cholesterol, whether it is working or not.
There are different blood tests that are performed when we visit a doctor. This list of some of the more common and what they are used for is a good start to understanding how important these tests can be and how it can help us remain healthy.