Phlebotomists across the country will tell you: Doctors want blood, and they want lots of it. The next time that you head to the office for your annual physical, don’t be surprised if your doctor wants to order a few lab tests. While it’s your choice if these tests are performed, knowing why your doctor wants them may help you to make a more rational decision. Here are five of the most common reasons your doctor will ask for your blood:
1.CBC – Complete Blood Count
Undoubtedly the most common lab test performed, the CBC gives your doctor a wide variety of information in one small test. When your doctor requests a CBC, it means that he or she wants to check your red blood cell count for anemia, and your white blood cell count for possible infections. A CBC can also alert your doctor to vitamin deficiencies, clotting problems and leukemia. There are many other reasons that your doctor may ask for a CBC; follow his or her advice.
2.BMP – Base Metabolic Panel
If you are experiencing specific symptoms, your doctor may order a BMP. In fact, this is the second most commonly ordered test. A BMP will test your sodium, potassium, glucose, chloride, creatinine, CO2, electrolytes and blood urea nitrogen levels. A BMP can alert your doctor to issues with your heart, kidneys and respiratory system. Your doctor can look at the results of your BMP and discover where he or she needs to take a closer look. A BMP, combined with a CBC, can be the first step in discovering what’s ailing you.
Don’t be confused when your doctor tells you that he or she wants a lipid profile. What they are really after is a check of your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. This is an important test for any adult, but especially for those with family histories of heart disease, or those who smoke or are overweight. If your cholesterol and triglycerides are high, you’re at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke; it’s an important test to have as part of your annual check-up.
4.TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
If your thyroid hormone levels are low, you may be suffering with hypothyroidism. Conversely, if your levels are high, your doctor may diagnose you with hyperthyroidism. Either can wreak havoc on your body so it’s important that you be tested. Problems with your thyroid can lead to fatigue, headaches, skin problems, weight loss or gain and goiter. The good news is that your thyroid issues can normally be controlled with medication, especially if caught in the early stages.
5.ESR – Sedimentation Rate
If you complain about headaches and joint pain, and your doctor can’t put a finger on what’s going on, he or she may ask for a sedimentation rate to be conducted. This blood test will tell your doctor if there is inflammation inside of your body. While the test won’t help your doctor come to a definitive diagnosis by itself, it will tell him or her that there is a need for further testing. Try not to think of this test as an unnecessary expense; some tests are simply used to guide a doctor in a certain direction.
If your asked to give blood at your next physical exam, don’t look at your doctor like he or she has just turned into a vampire. Blood tests are often the best way to discover what is going on with your internal structures. If you aren’t feeling quite right and can’t pinpoint why, blood tests can be the best way for your doctor to reach a diagnosis.
John Martin writes articles for several health testing sites and recommends the Sacramento labs for blood tests ordered by your doctor.