For most patients showing signs of anemia, a healthcare provider will order a complete blood count (CBC). It is a multifaceted test that measures hematocrit (HcT) values (how much red blood cells are present in the blood) and levels of white blood cells. There may be additional diagnostic tests to determine the cause, too.
Tests for this condition include the following.
- Blood iron level
- Serum ferritin level (ferritin, as the name suggests, is a protein of the blood that contains iron)
- Vitamin B12 and folate levels
- Red blood cell fragility
- Red blood cell shape
- Enzyme levels
- Clotting time
- Reticulocyte count (reticulocytes are underdeveloped red blood cells)
- Bilirubin level (bilirubin is an orangish-yellow substances resulting from the breakdown of red blood cells)
- Fecal stool test
The various diagnostic tests look closely at different elements of the blood. Some measure key components of it, such as the serum ferritin level test, which detects iron levels. Others look for blood to indicate bleeding, like the fecal stool test. If blood is found in a stool sample, for instance, it means bleeding somewhere in the digestive tract.
Other tests examine the health of the red blood cells. The reticulocyte count, for example, measures new red blood cells. A bilirubin level test looks for an orange-yellow pigment in the stool. Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells, and when the level is high, it’s a sign of excessive breakage.
What are the 6 types of anemia?
The six types of anemia include:
- Iron deficiency
- Folic acid deficiency
- Sickle cell
Each type involves a different aspect of red blood cells. Folic acid deficiency, for example, indicates a low folic acid level in the cells and can be a symptom of alcoholism. Aplastic is a reduction in the production of the cells, and sickle cell gets its name from the unusual shape of the cells. Hemolytic anemia means the body is destroying red blood cells before their lifespan normally ends.
Iron deficiency and folic acid are two of the more common types. Sickle cell, hemolytic, and pernicious anemias can be genetic. In the U.S, sickle cell anemia affects one in 365 African Americans. Pernicious anemia can also be part of the aging process. It tends to affect people between the ages of 50 and 60. Both hemolytic and pernicious anemia may be inherited or acquired (not inherited).