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- Anemia facts
- What is anemia?
- What causes anemia?
- Can inadequate iron cause anemia?
- Can inadequate iron cause anemia? (Continued)
- What about acute (sudden) blood loss as a cause of anemia?
- What are other causes of anemia?
- Can anemia be hereditary?
- What are the symptoms of anemia?
- How is anemia diagnosed?
- What is a complete blood cell (CBC) count?
- How is blood collected for a CBC?
- What is the red blood cell (RBC) count?
- What is hemoglobin?
- What does a low hemoglobin level mean?
- What is the hematocrit?
- How is hematocrit determined?
- How is anemia treated?
- What are the complications of anemia?
- What is the outlook (prognosis) for anemia?
How is anemia diagnosed?
Anemia is usually detected, or at least confirmed, by a complete blood cell (CBC) count. A CBC test may be ordered by a physician as a part of routine general checkup and screening or based on clinical signs and symptoms that may suggest anemia or other blood abnormalities.
What is a complete blood cell (CBC) count?
Traditionally, CBC analysis was performed by a physician or a laboratory technician by viewing a glass slide prepared from a blood sample under a microscope. Today, much of this work is often automated and done by machines. Six component measurements make up a CBC test:
- Red blood cell (RBC) count
- White blood cell (WBC) count
- Differential blood count (the "diff")
- Platelet count
Only the first three of these tests -- the red blood cell (RBC) count, the hematocrit, and the hemoglobin -- are relevant to the diagnosis of anemia.
Additionally, mean corpuscular volume (MCV) is also often reported in a CBC, which basically measures the average volume of red blood cells in a blood sample. This is important in distinguishing the causes of anemia. Units of MCV are reported in femtoliters, a fraction of one millionth of a liter.
Other useful clues to causes of anemia that are reported in a CBC are the size, shape, and color of red blood cells.