What is a complete blood count?
A complete blood count or CBC is a blood test that measures many different parts and features of your blood, including:
Red blood cells, which carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body
White blood cells, which fight infection. There are five major types of white blood cells. A CBC test measures the total number of white cells in your blood. A test called a CBC with differential also measures the number of each type of these white blood cells
Platelets, which help your blood to clot and stop bleeding
Hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs and to the rest of your body
Hematocrit, a measurement of how much of your blood is made up of red blood
A complete blood count may also include measurements of chemicals and other substances in your blood. These results can give your health care provider important information about your overall health and risk for certain diseases.
Other names for a complete blood count: CBC, full blood count, blood cell count.
What do the results mean?
A CBC counts the cells and measures the levels of different substances in your blood. There are many reasons your levels may fall outside the normal range. For instance:
Abnormal red blood cell, hemoglobin, or hematocrit levels may indicate anemia, iron deficiency, or heart disease
Low white cell count may indicate an autoimmune disorder, bone marrow disorder, or cancer
High white cell count may indicate an infection or reaction to medication
If any of your levels are abnormal, it does not necessarily indicate a medical problem needing treatment. Diet, activity level, medications, a women's menstrual cycle, and other considerations can affect the results. Talk to your health care provider to learn what your results mean.
Is there anything else I need to know about a complete blood count?
A complete blood count is only one tool your health care provider uses to learn about your health. Your medical history, symptoms, and other factors will be considered before a diagnosis. Additional testing and follow-up care may also be recommended.