What is a normal red blood cell count?

A red blood cell (RBC) count measures that number of red blood cells in a sample and makes a general estimate of the average count in a person's blood. These numbers are expressed in millions per microliter (uL) or millions per millimeter cubed. This information can be very important in diagnosing a variety of conditions characterized by an abnormally low or high count.

A normal red blood cell count will vary depending on the age and gender of the person being tested. The normal number for women tends to range between about 4.2-5.4 million red blood cells per microliter (million/uL). Men have a considerably higher normal range, falling between 4.7-6 million/uL. Children tend to fall somewhere in the middle of these two, and have a very narrow normal RBC count range of about 4.6-4.8 million/uL. Since red blood cells are essential in moving oxygen throughout the body, people who live at higher altitudes, where oxygen is thinner, may have a slightly higher normal range.

Having a normal number of red blood cells helps the body perform almost all functions related to survival. The hemoglobin in red blood cells is believed to carry approximately 98% of the body's oxygen, transporting it to and from the organs like a very efficient delivery truck. When a red blood cell count is too low, creating a condition known as anemia, the body is at risk of not getting enough oxygen, which can cause a variety of problems, including organ damage. A high red blood cell count, known as polycythemia, can also be bad news; Heart, lung, and blood diseases are associated with an abnormally high erythrocyte.

Symptoms of a lower than normal red blood cell count include fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, and weight loss. People with anemia may have low energy levels and be sensitive to cold. Joint pain, abdominal swelling, and excessive bruising or bleeding after minor injuries can be symptoms of polycythemia.

Verification of an erythrocyte is usually done by a simple blood test. It is usually done as part of a blood panel, which checks the levels of hormones, platelets, cells, and other substances found in the bloodstream. A full blood panel may require several vials of blood to be drawn, which may be of some concern in people with a history of anemia. Medical professionals may choose to sample over time or instruct an anemic patient to consume additional nutrition and rest and drink plenty of fluids before undergoing testing.

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