RBC blood test is the test that indicates the number of red blood cells (RBCs) in your blood. These cells are also called erythrocytes. An abnormal RBC level (low or high) can lead to various diseases, such as heart disease, kidney failure, bleeding, or anemia. This article will show the importance of the RBC test with their normal ranges. A provider will recommend you treatment for low or high red blood cells.
What is the red blood cell (RBC) count?
RBC blood test helps to see whether you have normal red blood cells. RBCs are the type of blood cell developed in your bone marrow and present in your blood. Red blood cells include hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen to your body’s tissues. Hemoglobin also carries carbon dioxide from the tissues and releases it from the body through the lungs. The necessary hemoglobin amount is required for the proper oxygen supply to the body’s tissues to do various functions. The RBCs level can tell how well oxygen carries to your tissues. If you have a low or high RBC count, you may experience symptoms of these.
Symptoms of low red blood cell count
Here are the symptoms of low RBC count that include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Lightheadedness (feeling of faintness such as improper balance or blurry vision)
- Pain in your head
- High heart rate
- Skin color turns pale
Symptoms of high red blood cell count
The following are the symptoms of a high RBC count, which include:
- Pain in the joint
- Breath problems
- Softness in your hands or under your feet
- Itchy skin
- Sleep disorders
You may order a red blood cell count if you have these symptoms.
When does the provider order an RBC blood test?
A healthcare provider may recommend this test to diagnose or observe different medical conditions. RBC count is a routine test that may suggest:
- If you are at risk of having anemia (a condition in which the body does not possess required red blood cells).
- If you are experiencing the symptoms of changes in your blood cell, like weakness or infection.
- When you are taking a particular treatment like chemotherapy, which may result in blood cell disorders.
- To look for possible long-term diseases, such as chronic kidney disease, that may cause abnormal RBCs.
Generally, a doctor may order additional tests than an RBC count to find a medical problem. This test is often included in a blood panel test called complete blood cell (CBC) count. A CBC test determines the number of following types of blood cells, such as:
- Red blood cells
- White blood cells. These cells are included in your immune system.
- Hemoglobin (Hb). It is the protein that transports oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- Platelets. The function of these cells is to clot your blood.
- Hematocrit. It evaluates by dividing the RBCs by the total volume of your blood.
The doctor will understand and be able to detect the health condition by observing the quantities of these cells.
How is the RBC count conducted?
A red blood cell count requires a blood sample. You can schedule an online order for this test before going to the laboratory. A provider will ask you to sit on a chair and stay relaxed during this test. A small needle will be inserted into a vein in your arm. Your blood sample will be deposited into the specimen or test tube. You may experience slight pain for a short period after the test. Your blood sample will be examined in the laboratory. The test result is often received within one or two days, depending on the laboratory.
What do I need to prepare before the red blood cell count?
You do not need any preparation for this test. You can eat or drink before the test if you only have a red blood cell count or complete blood count. But, if the healthcare provider recommends more blood tests, fasting (avoiding eating or drinking) is required.
RBC Normal Range
The normal range of the RBC blood test may change with factors, including age, sex, medical history, altitude, and others. The red blood cell count is expressed in millions of cells per microliter (mcL) of blood or trillions of cells per liter (L) of blood. The normal RBC count range is listed below for:
Men: 4.7 to 6.1 million/mcL
Women: 4.2 to 5.4 million/mcL
Children: 4.1 to 5.5 million/mcL
If you have lower or higher than these levels, you may have a chance of developing certain diseases.
What causes high red blood cell count?
A Higher RBC count than recommended shows several medical problems. An increase in the red blood cell count compared to normal shows the increase of oxygen-transporting cells in your blood.
The following are the causes that may lead to the high amount of RBCs that includes:
- Heart disease or failure that results in low oxygen levels in the blood
- Congenital heart disease (Congenital indicates at the time of birth)
- Polycythemia vera (a less often condition in which bone marrow develops more red blood cells)
- Lung diseases like pulmonary fibrosis
- Tumors in the kidneys
- Less water intake
- Low oxygen level in the blood, also known as hypoxia
Some other possible lifestyle changes that show a high RBC count include:
- Smoking cigarettes
- A resident of high altitude
- Taking specific performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids, testosterone, gentamicin, etc.
Reasons for low red blood cell count
A low red blood cell count tells that your blood has reduced oxygen-transporting cells. Low RBC count than normal can occur due to these conditions, such as:
- Anemia (A condition in which your body does not contain required red blood cells)
- Excessive bleeding (inside or outside of the body)
- Kidney failure
- Leukemia (cancer of white blood cells)
- Bone marrow cancer, also known as multiple myeloma
- Deficiency of erythropoietin hormone, which develops by your kidneys.
- Low iron, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, folate levels in the body
- Side Effects from medicines, such as chemotherapy or quinidine
- Unexpected damage of red blood cells (hemolysis)
- Excess water intake
Treatment for a high RBC Count
The treatment for an RBC count may vary with the medical cause. If your RBC blood test results indicate high RBCs due to nutritional deficiency, excess use of medication, or chronic condition, you may consider these to reduce your rbc level.
- Take the recommended amount of water (at least 10-12 glasses a day)
- Avoid smoking
- Do exercise at least 15 to 30 minutes a day
- Take the low amount of red meat and iron foods
- Do not use iron supplements
- Remove coffee and caffeinated drinks from your diet
- Avoid the use of any performance-enhancing drugs
How To Increase RBC Count?
You can increase your low RBC count up to the normal range if you:
- Stay healthy and take a completely balanced diet
- Use vitamin and iron supplements daily according to the need
- Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes
- Avoid smoking
- Do not take aspirin
- Consider blood transfusion, which can add more RBCs to your blood
- Take thyroid medicines as recommended by a provider if you are dealing with thyroid disease
A healthcare provider will recommend other treatments if you have a chronic condition or bone marrow failure. You can request an online medical consultation if your RBC blood test result shows a low RBC count.
An RBC blood test can determine the number of red blood cells in your blood. A high or low RBC count may indicate different medical problems. A healthcare provider will note your RBC levels if you experience a blood disorder or take medicines that may change it. By following the above-recommended treatment steps, you can maintain a healthy red blood cell count in the blood. You may consult an online provider for more information about your rbc test result.