What is anemia?
When you suffer from anemia, you do not have enough healthy red blood cells in your body that transport enough oxygen. This is necessary for your organs to function properly. You have anemia when you do not have enough hemoglobin (Hb) in your blood. If you have anemia, you may feel tired and weak.
There are different forms of anemia, each with its own cause. It can be temporary or long-term, and range from moderate to severe. Anemia causes a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and headache. The symptoms often worsen as the anemia gets worse. However, it also occurs that there are no symptoms.
What do we determine during the anemia blood test?
Blood: Hemoglobin & MCV
Hemoglobin ensures that oxygen is transported through the blood. This is an important role in the body. This determination looks at the Hb value in your blood. This indicates whether you have anemia. This is the case when the Hb value is lower than normal. Anemia does not mean there is not enough blood in your body, but you do not have enough hemoglobin in your blood. This can, among other things, cause fatigue.
The MCV (mean corpuscular volume) measures the average size of your red blood cells. If they are smaller or larger than average, this can lead to blood disorders, including anemia. A low MCV value may indicate an iron deficiency. An increased MCV value can be caused by a vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
This test measures the speed at which red blood cells sink. The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) gives an indication of whether inflammation or infection is present. When you have an inflammation, the red blood cells usually drop faster than when you are healthy. The BSE is also often higher in cases of anemia. This investigation may show that something is going on, but does not provide the information to prove what is going on. That is why the BSE test is often performed in combination with other tests.
Thrombocytes are small blood cells that help the blood to clot. They are also called platelets. This is important when repairing wounds. With anemia there are often other deficiencies, including a shortage of platelets. A shortage of platelets is also called thrombocytopenia. For example, this can cause you to bruise more quickly.
A reticulocyte is an immature red blood cell (erythrocyte). When there are many reticulocytes in the blood, this may be due to blood loss or breakdown of red blood cells. This examination can help determine the cause of the anemia.
In many cases, anemia is caused by a deficiency of iron. With an iron deficiency, your body cannot produce enough hemoglobin for the red blood cells. An iron deficiency can have various causes, such as heavy blood loss, for example during menstruation, or certain diets. With an iron deficiency you feel tired and out of breath more quickly and you may suffer from restless legs.
Vitamin B12 is needed for the production of enough healthy red blood cells. Vitamin B12 also helps for the proper functioning of the nervous system. This vitamin is mainly found in animal products, so it is often recommended for vegans to have it tested. If you don't get enough vitamin B12, fewer red blood cells are produced. In that case, you may experience fatigue, dizziness, tingling, memory loss and muscle weakness.
Kidney function: creatinine (eGFR)
An eGFR test examines the amount of creatinine in the blood. This is a breakdown product of the muscles and is filtered by the kidneys. This test can be used to determine how well the kidneys are functioning. Kidney problems can be a cause of anemia.