There are a seemingly infinite number of blood tests available, each with its own purpose. Three of these tests are instrumental in providing doctors with a wealth of information about your health.

Complete Blood Count

A complete blood count (CBC) may be requested with or without differential. When the test is requested with differential, it provides more information about the various types of blood cells and can give more specific information about your health. The CBC quantifies the number of red and white blood cells, platelets, and provides information about the red blood cells and their functioning. If the CBC occurs with differential, the extra information provided will be the quantity of different types of white blood cells. White blood cells include neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, basophils, and eosinophils. Some information gained from a CBC includes whether you have an abnormally high or low number of red or white blood cells. For example, low red blood cells can mean internal bleeding. Elevated white blood cells occur with infection and some autoimmune conditions. In contrast, low white blood cells could increase your risk of infection.

Metabolic Panel

A metabolic panel provides information about different chemicals in your blood. Glucose, calcium, and potassium are just a few values given in the results. Some problems that could show up on a metabolic panel are problems with the liver or kidneys. The results of the test include various liver enzymes and waste products from the liver. If your level of bilirubin, which is a waste product made by the liver, is elevated, it could be indicative of liver failure. Similarly, the kidneys produce waste products. These numbers are included in the test and their ratio is important. High amounts of these waste products in the blood would signal the kidneys are not effectively doing their job, which is removing waste from the blood. If the kidneys are not working correctly, they may be failing.

Inflammatory Markers

Testing for inflammatory markers may only be done if the doctor has specific concerns. One test is the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), also known as a SED rate. The test measures how quickly erythrocytes (red blood cells) fall to the bottom of a tube. Results are reported in millimeters per hour. The faster the cells fall to the bottom of the tube, the higher the level of inflammation. A similar test is the c-reactive protein (CRP), which also tests inflammation in the body. High levels of inflammation can be related to heart disease. These tests may also be elevated in people with autoimmune diseases. If a doctor finds high levels of inflammation, they will want to perform follow-up testing to determine what is causing the problem.

Although all blood tests have their place in medicine, some are more telling than others. Abnormal results on routine blood tests can be the first sign of problems.

Contact your doctor or medical lab to learn more about blood tests.