Blood tests are one particular type of diagnostic test. They’re one of the most fundamental types of diagnostic tests, in fact. Blood testing can be something your health care provider does on a regular basis, or they might use it as a way to determine the cause of the symptoms you’re experiencing.
The following are some of the general things to know about blood tests as part of your health care.
1. An Overview
A blood test can again be routine or diagnostic. These tests can be used at regular intervals to determine your well-being. They can be used to create baselines so your health can then be tracked over time.
There are some blood tests that will show how particular organs work. Your kidneys, liver, and thyroid are examples of organs whose dysfunction can show up in a blood test.
A doctor can also use blood tests to look for markers of health conditions like diabetes, anemia, cancer, HIV, and coronary heart disease.
In certain cases, such as with heart disease, even if you don’t presently have the condition, a blood test can show if you’re at risk of developing it.
Blood tests are extremely common in health care.
2. Complete Blood Count
The complete blood count is the most commonly administered blood test. It’s usually included as part of a routine checkup, and it’s also done for many other reasons.
A complete blood count will look at the different parts of your blood, including your red and white blood cells and your platelets.
Red blood cells carry your body’s oxygen from the lungs throughout the rest of your body. If they’re too high or low, it can indicate anemia, bleeding happening somewhere in your body, or dehydration.
White blood cells make up part of your immune system that fights various diseases and infections.
Platelets are bits of blood cells that help it clot. They can stick together if you’re cut and stop the bleeding.
Hemoglobin is measured in a CBC, and if your levels are low, it could indicate something like anemia. Hemoglobin is a protein rich in iron in your red blood cells that transports oxygen.
Hematocrit is a measure of the space your red blood cells take up in the blood. Low levels could indicate anemia, and high levels could show dehydration.
Also, part of a CBC is your mean corpuscular volume or MCV. This is a measure of your red blood cells’ average size.
There are different ranges for males and females, and there are factors like high altitude, age, and race that can affect CBC results.
3. Blood Chemistry or Basic Metabolic Panels
A basic metabolic panel is a set of tests that will look at chemicals in your blood that are naturally occurring. The tests are done on the plasma of your blood, which is the fluid.
A basic metabolic panel will look at how your organs, including your liver, kidneys, and heart, are working. A BMP also includes electrolyte, calcium, and blood glucose tests.
If you’re doing a BMP, your provider will usually tell you not to eat beforehand, but not always.
A comprehensive metabolic panel measures everything, including in a BMP, and also looks at substances that relate to liver function, including albumin, total protein, ALT, AST, and bilirubin.
4. Blood Enzyme Tests
A blood enzyme test is used to check for a possible heart attack. Enzymes are naturally occurring chemicals in our bodies that control chemical reactions. There are a lot of types of blood enzyme tests, but the ones that can look for heart attacks include creatine kinase tests and troponin.
If you have muscle damage, which can include damage to your heart muscle, your blood levels of troponin go up. The CK-MB enzyme is also released into someone’s blood when they sustain damage to the heart muscle, so high levels can be a heart attack indicator.
5. Coagulation Panels
A coagulation test is a way for a healthcare provider to assess how well your blood’s able to clot and how long it takes to clot. Examples of the tests included in these panels are fibrinogen activity tests and prothrombin time or PT.
Clotting is a necessary process that helps stop bleeding after a wound, but if you have a clot located in your artery or vein, it can be deadly if it blocks the flow of blood to your lungs, heart, or brain.
Coagulation tests can also be used to diagnose a deficiency of vitamin K, leukemia, excess bleeding, liver conditions, and thrombosis.
6. Thyroid Panel
A thyroid panel looks at how well your thyroid is able to produce and also react to certain hormones.
Triiodothyronine or T3 works with T4 to regulate your body temperature and heart rate. Thyroxine works to regulate your metabolism and growth, and thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH, regulates the levels of hormones released by your thyroid.
The thyroid is a gland in your neck responsible for the regulation of body functions, including metabolism, mood, and energy levels.
If you have abnormal thyroid hormone levels, it can indicate low protein levels, abnormal testosterone or estrogen levels, or a number of other conditions.
7. Lipid Panel
A lipid panel is used for assessing the two types of cholesterol. HDL is called good cholesterol because it can remove bad substances from the blood and help the liver break them down into waste. LDL is bad because it increases the risk of heart disease by causing plaque to develop in the arteries.
8. Bone Marrow Tests
Finally, bone marrow tests look at the function of your bone marrow to see if it’s making normal amounts of blood cells.
A bone marrow test can be done as an aspiration, which is when a small amount of bone marrow fluid is gathered with a need. Bone marrow tests can also be a biopsy, where a small amount of the tissue is gathered.
The above blood tests are certainly not an exhaustive list, but these do give an overview of the ones that are most often ordered by healthcare providers.