Common Blood Tests Used In Managing IBD

Blood Tests Aren't Usually Diagnostic, But They Help Monitor Certain Diseases

Blood tests are an important part of the management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In most cases, blood tests can't diagnose a disease or disorder (with the exception being anemia), but they can provide information about what's going on in the body. Most people don't enjoy having their blood taken, but a blood test is normally fairly quick and only mildly uncomfortable. The benefits to blood tests are significant, and they can help guide a physician in the right direction, possibly to order other tests that will be the most beneficial in achieving a diagnosis or treating a condition. Any number of blood tests might be ordered to monitor Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, and below are just a few.

White Blood Cell (WBC) Count

White Blood Cells
There are several different types of white blood cells. A few of them are highlighted in this blood smear. Image © CDC / Dr. Candler Ballard

White blood cells are also known as leukocytes. These cells might start to be found in greater numbers when there is an infection present somewhere in the body. A higher than typical white cell count can alert a physician to an infection or inflammation, even if one can't be seen or detected with other tests. The test isn't specific enough to indicate where the problem might exist, but it does let a physician know that more investigation might be needed. Learn more about the white blood cell count test, including an example of a normal range for white blood cells in the blood.

Hemoglobin Level Test

Hemoglobin is what gives blood its red color. Image © / Getty Images

Hemoglobin is an important protein that is found inside red blood cells. The cells of the body need to be supplied with oxygen, and have carbon dioxide taken away, and hemoglobin is the protein that takes care of this process. A hemoglobin level that is too low is anemia, which could be the result of bleeding or of a vitamin or mineral deficiency. A level that is too high can be a sign of a heart or lung condition. Read more about how hemoglobin levels are measured and what a normal range might be.

Hematocrit Level Test

A centrifuge may be used in processing blood samples. Image © Universal Images Group / Getty Images

A hematocrit level test is unlike other blood tests in that it doesn't count or measure a specific protein or cell within the blood. Rather, it is a calculation of the volume of the red blood cells within the blood. Low  hematocrit levels are used to diagnose anemia. A high hematocrit level  could be a sign of a condition that is affecting the heart or the lungs. Learn what the normal ranges are for a hematocrit level

Red Blood Cell (RBC) Count

Red Blood Cells
Red blood cells are the biggest component of blood. Image © Science Picture Co / Getty Images

A red blood cell count is just what it sounds like: a count of the number of red blood cells present in the blood. This test is generally considered less helpful, but if there are too many or too few red blood cells present, it can help a physician to narrow down what might be causing certain symptoms. A low or high red blood cell count is not a condition in and of itself, but is rather a sign that another problem is causing the count to be out of proportion. Find out what a normal red blood cell count might be for men, women, and children.

Blood Tests For IBD

There are many tests that are used to monitor the signs, symptoms, and complications of IBD. Blood tests can't usually diagnose a condition (aside from anemia), but they can help let a doctor know what is going on inside. If some of the blood tests have levels that are out of the normal range, it could mean that more tests are needed to determine what is going on. Your doctor is the best reference to understand the results of your blood tests.

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