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Why You Should Get a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and What the Results Mean

May 30, 2022

A complete blood count (CBC) is a common laboratory test that healthcare providers use to diagnose different conditions and check for side effects of different medications or treatments. Importantly, a CBC can be an important tool for monitoring your health. Learn more about how CBCs work and what they measure in this post from TOPLAB®.

What Is Included in a CBC Test?

A complete blood count test evaluates different aspects of your blood, including your blood cells, hematocrit, hemoglobin, and platelets. Specifically, a CBC can be used to measure a patient’s:

  • Red blood cells: This type of blood cell carries oxygen throughout the body.
  • White blood cells: This type of blood cell fights off infections. There are five different kinds of white blood cells.
  • Hemoglobin: This is the protein in red blood cells that allow them to carry oxygen.
  • Hematocrit: Your blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. A hematocrit test measures the number of red blood cells in a blood sample.
  • Platelets: These cells help your blood clot, which is crucial to the healing process.

Typically, you don’t need to fast before a CBC. Unless your doctor advises you otherwise, you can eat and drink as you normally would. The test may take place at your doctor’s office or a third-party laboratory. Once a sample of your blood has been collected (usually from a vein in your arm), you can return to work or school and resume your normal activities right away.

When Should I Get a CBC?

According to Cleveland Clinic, one CBC test can test for hundreds of different conditions. There are many different reasons your healthcare provider might recommend a complete blood count. You might want to get a CBC if:

  • You’re currently receiving medical treatment: Some prescription medications can affect a person’s blood count. If you’re taking medicine regularly, your doctor might use a CBC to ensure your blood is healthy. Similarly, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can affect your blood count.
  • You have unexplained symptoms: If you’re experiencing new or unusual symptoms, a CBC can help your doctor accurately diagnose you. For example, a patient with unexplained fatigue and weakness may have anemia, a condition often caused by iron deficiency. Blood work can check the patient’s red blood cell count to determine if they are anemic.

If your doctor suggests a CBC, It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sick. Many patients get a CBC as part of their annual checkup or wellness exam. A CBC is a useful tool to monitor your health and keep track of any changes in your well-being over time.

What Do My Results Mean?

Typically, you’ll get the results of a complete blood count in two days or less. Your doctor may call you or schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss your results.

High red blood cell, hemoglobin, or hematocrit levels could indicate:

  • Dehydration
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart or lung disease

Low red blood cell, hemoglobin, or hematocrit levels could be due to:

  • Poor nutrition
  • A long-term infection
  • Chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis

A low white blood cell count might indicate:

  • Liver damage from alcohol abuse
  • Autoimmune illness

Certain medical treatments such as chemotherapy drugs also can lower white blood cell counts, as well as platelet counts.

High white blood cell counts can be caused by:

  • Infections
  • Certain medications
  • Severe stress

Patients may have high platelet counts if they have iron deficiency or recent bleeding. If a patient is pregnant, their platelet count might be unusually low.

Each person is different, so be sure to talk with your doctor about what your results might indicate and how you can stay healthy.

Get Fast and Reliable Lab Results From TOPLAB®

If you need a complete blood count, TOPLAB® is standing by to assist you. Our laboratory works with healthcare providers to provide rapid results for CBCs and other blood tests. We also provide direct-to-consumer blood testing so patients can have more control over monitoring their health. Though TOPLAB® is based in New Jersey, we work with patients and providers throughout the United States. Best of all, you can view your results from anywhere with our secure online portal. To learn more or book an appointment, please contact us today.