The Ultimate CBC Test Cheat Sheet You Need

CBC stands for Complete Blood Count. It’s a blood test that measures all of the different types of cells in your blood. If you’ve ever had a blood test done before, then you probably already know about the CBC test. However, if you’re new to blood tests, there are a few things you should know about this common blood test.

There are three main categories of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. All three of these cell types play an important role in keeping you healthy. So, knowing how to interpret a CBC test correctly can help you get a clearer picture of your health.

In this article, I’m going to explain each of the three categories individually and provide you with a cheat sheet to help you learn how to perform the CBC test correctly.

Why Are CBCs Done?
A CBC is usually performed as part of a routine physical exam or when you have symptoms that suggest something might be wrong with your body. For example, if you notice bruising on your skin or bleeding from any other area of your body, it could mean that you need to see a doctor right away.

If you have a fever, chills, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or joint pain, then you’ll want to make sure to mention those symptoms to your doctor so he/she can rule out anything more serious.
How Is The CBC Performed?
To perform a CBC, your healthcare provider will take a small amount of blood from one of your veins using a needle and syringe. A CBC test requires only two drops of blood. This means that you won’t feel any discomfort during the procedure.

Your healthcare provider may ask you to lie down while they draw your blood. He/she will use a bandage to cover the puncture site after drawing your blood. Afterward, your healthcare provider will give you some instructions on what to do next.
What Do The Results Tell Us?
After performing the CBC test, your healthcare provider will tell you whether or not everything looks normal. They’ll also tell you which category of cells was affected by the disease or disorder that caused your symptoms.

For example, if you have a high level of white blood cells but no infection, then your healthcare provider will likely say that you don’t have an infection. In addition, if your WBC count is low, but your red blood cell count is okay, then your healthcare provider will most likely say that you don’t have anemia.

However, if both your WBC and RBC counts are low, then your healthcare provider will likely diagnose you with leukemia.
What Should I Look Out For When Reading My CBC Result?
Here are some key points to keep in mind when reading your CBC results:

Your healthcare provider will report your total number of white blood cells. These include neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, basophils, eosinophils, erythrocytes, hemoglobin, hematocrit, MCV, MCHC, RDWCV, and RDWCV.

Your healthcare provider will also report your total number of platelets. These include thrombocytosis, thrombocytopenia, megakaryocyte hypoplasia, polychromatic normoblasts, orthochromatic normoblasts, immature reticulocytes, and reticulocytes.

Finally, your healthcare provider will report your total number of nucleated red blood cells. These include prokaryotic cells, bacterial cells, fungal cells, and viral cells. If your healthcare provider detects any abnormalities, he/she will write them down in a medical record.

As mentioned before, your healthcare provider will also determine how many categories of cells were affected by the disease or disorder that caused your symptoms. It’s important to remember that CBC results aren’t always accurate. Sometimes your healthcare provider will find nothing abnormal even though you’re experiencing symptoms. This happens because your CBC results depend on your current health status.

So, if you’re feeling well, then your CBC results should look great. However, if you’re sick, then your CBC results will probably show signs of illness.
What are normal ranges in CBC?
If you’ve never had a CBC test performed on yourself, then it can be difficult to know what your CBC results mean. Fortunately, however, there are normal ranges for each of these CBC tests.

Hemoglobin normal range:

— Male (ages 15+): 13.0–17.0 g/dL
— Female (ages 15+): 11.5–15.5 g/dL

Hematocrit normal range:

— Male: 40–55%
— Female: 36–48%

Platelet Count normal range:

— Adult: 150,000–400,000/mL

White blood cell (WBC) normal range:

— Adult: 5,000–10,000/mL

If your CBC results look anything like this, then it’s time for a visit to your primary care physician.

A CBC is a type of blood test that measures different types of blood cells. A CBC can help your doctor detect problems in your immune system and identify diseases such as cancer.
What does a CBC look for or detect?
A CBC blood test can help your provider diagnose a wide range of conditions, disorders, diseases and infections, including:

— Anemia (when there aren’t enough red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body).
— Bone marrow disorders, such as myelodysplastic syndromes.
— Disorders such as agranulocytosis and thalassemias and sickle cell anemia.
— Infections or other problems that cause abnormally low white blood cell count or high white blood cell count.
— Several types of cancer, including leukemia and lymphoma.
— Side effects of chemotherapy and some prescription medications.
— Vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

CBC Test Results Jargon You May Hear Or Read From Your Doctor
Neutropenia: Neutropenia occurs when there are too few neutrophil cells in the body. Neutrophils are part of the immune system and help fight infections.

Anemia: Anemia occurs when there are too few red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body.

Thrombocytopenia: Thrombocytopenia occurs when there are too few platelet cells in the body. Platelets are small pieces of tissue that help prevent bleeding.

Leukopenia: Leukopenia occurs when there are too few leukocyte cells in the body. Leukocytes are part of the immune system and help fight infection.

Lymphopenia: Lymphopenia occurs when there are too few lymphocyte cells in the body. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system and help fight infection.

Monocytopenia: Monocytopenia occurs when there are too few monocyte cells in the body. Monocytes are phagocytic cells that clear bacteria from the body.

Erythropenia: Erythropenia occurs when there are too few erythrocyte cells in the body. Erythrocytes are red blood cells that carry oxygen through the body.

Eosinophilia: Eosinophilia occurs when there are too many eosinophil cells in the body. Eosinophils are white blood cells that help fight parasites and other foreign substances.

Basophilia: Basophilia occurs when there are too many basophil cells in the body. Basophils are white blood cells that help fight parasitic infections.
What Is The Purpose Of A CBC Test?
1) To measure the number of different kinds of red blood cells and white blood cells present in the bloodstream.

2) To measure the level of hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen around the body.

3) To measure the level of mean corpuscular volume. MCV refers to the average size of all the red blood cells in a sample.

4) To measure the level of mean corpuscular hemoglobin. MCH refers to the average amount of hemoglobin in each red blood cell.

5) To measure the level of reticulocyte count. Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells.

6) To determine the total number of white blood cells in the blood. This includes both the number of neutrophils, which are important for fighting off bacterial infections and the number of lymphocytes, which are important for fighting against viruses.

7) To measure the number of platelets, or thrombocytes, in the blood. These are small fragments of bone marrow that help stops bleeding after an injury.

8) To measure the number of eosinophils, basophils, and monocytes in the blood.

9) To assess the health of the bone marrow, where new blood cells are made.

10) To monitor the effectiveness of treatment for certain conditions. For example, people with leukemia often have their CBC checked before starting chemotherapy.
What Does Each Abbreviation Mean In A CBC Test?
Complete Blood Count is conducted to assess the overall health of a patient and it is one of the most common tests. It helps physicians to diagnose autoimmune disorders, infections, anemia, and other diseases. Here are some of the common abbreviations in the CBC test –
Red Blood Cell (RBC)
The main function of red blood cells is to provide your lungs with much-needed oxygen through body tissues and remove carbon dioxide from the body. Here are the recommended normal RBC values — Infant — 4.1 to 6.1 million/µlt Children — 3.8 to 6 million/µlt Men — 4.5 to 5.5 million/µlt Women — 4 to 5 million/µlt High Level — The high level is It indicating smoking, dehydration, pulmonary fibrosis, congenital heart disease, renal cell carcinoma, pulmonary fibrosis, and polycythemia vera.

Drugs increasing RBC levels — Gentamicin, Methyldopa Low Level — Anemia, Bleeding, overhydration, malnutrition, hemolysis, deficiency of erythropoietin, multiple myeloma, leukemia, thalassemia, porphyria, sickle cell anemia Drugs which lower RBC level — Hydantoins, quinidine, chloramphenicol, and drugs for chemotherapy
Hemoglobin (Hgb)
The Red blood cells contain a protein named hemoglobin. Our blood is made bright red by hemoglobin due to the presence of iron. People living thousands of meters above sea levels and smokers are more likely to have high hemoglobin levels. It is because their body produces more to fulfill the need for oxygen.

However, a low amount of hemoglobin leads to different types of blood diseases like thalassemia and sickle cell disease.

Recommended range Pregnancy — 10–15 g/dL Male — 13.5–16.5 g/dL Female — 12–15 g/dL High Level — Reasons for high level are due to smoking, dehydration, tumors, polycythemia vera, lung disease, erythropoietin abuse, blood doping Drugs causing high hemoglobin count — Iron supplements, erythropoietin Low Level — The low level is due to blood loss, lack of nutrients, sickle cell anemia, renal problems, leukemia, bone marrow suppression, etc.

Drugs causing low hemoglobin count — Antibiotics, aspirin, sulfonamides, anti-neoplastic drugs, trimethadione, doxapram, indomethacin, primaquine, and rifampin.
Hematocrit (Hct)
Also called PCV or packed cell volume, Hematocrit refers to the percentage of a volume of RBCs in the blood. Hence, the result you will get varies by structure, size, and total RBC value. It is important to determine Hct to assess and diagnose a lack of nutrition, blood diseases, and hydration level.

Recommended range Men — 41% to 50% Children — 36% to 40% Women — 36% to 44% Infant — 55% to 68% High level — Some of the common causes include smoking, dehydration, hypoxia, tumors, polycythemia vera, lung diseases, erythropoietin abuse, cor pulmonale, and blood doping.

Drugs which increase levels — Iron supplements Drugs which reduce levels — Antibiotics, aspirin, etc.
White Blood Cell
There are, generally five different types of white blood cells — lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, monocytes, and basophils.

Recommended Range — 5000 to 10000 per microliter High Level — Some of the common causes include smoking, infections, inflammatory diseases, leukemia, severe mental or physical stress, tissue damage Drugs causing high level — Heparin, Corticosteroids, epinephrine, beta-adrenergic agonists, lithium, and granulocyte colony-provoking drugs Low Levels — It may cause due to deficiencies in bone marrow, autoimmune disorders, liver problems, viral diseases, spleen issues, radiation therapy, and extreme bacterial infections Drugs causing low levels — Chemotherapeutic medicines, Diuretics, captopril, histamine-2 blockers, antibiotics, quinidine, anti-thyroid medications, terbinafine, chlorpromazine, etc.
Platelet Count
Also known as thrombocytes, platelets bind together and circulate in the blood to clot over the blood vessel which is damaged. Also, it is very important to assess platelet count to diagnose the risk of thrombosis in patients.

Recommended range — 150,000 to 400,000 per Micro-liter High Level — Some of the common causes of high level are:

The recent removal of the spleen
Polycythemia Vera
Chronic myelogenous leukemia
Secondary thrombocytosis

Drugs causing high platelet — Steroids, romiplostim, immunosuppressants, human IgG Low Level — Some of the common causes of low levels are:

Viral infection
Aplastic anemia
Deficiency of folic acid
Vitamin B12
Hemolytic uremic condition
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy
HELLP syndrome,
Cirrhosis etc.

Drugs causing low platelet — Some of the common drugs include aspirin, chemotherapeutic drugs, anagrelide, hydroxyurea, ranitidine, statins, quinidine, vancomycin, tetracycline, sulfonamides, valproic acid, etc.

In blood tests, reference ranges are, basically, sets of values used to figure out a set of test results by a health professional from blood samples.
BMP (Basic Metabolic Panel)

It measures the functioning of the kidney, electrolyte levels, and blood sugar levels.
This is one of the most common tests conducted by healthcare professionals.
BMP has 7–8 biochemical tests.
The BMP helps monitor and assesses overall health, medical therapies, response to medication, and it determines the functioning of metabolism.

Lipids panel
It determines fatty elements in your blood because high cholesterol and triglyceride levels are responsible for a high risk of heart diseases.

CMP (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel)

It tests the functioning of liver, kidney, parathyroid and diabetic status, fluid and electrolyte balance.
CMP consists of a panel including 14 blood results and it expands as BMP or basic metabolic panel, including liver tests.
It is also called CMP 14 or Complete Metabolic Panel 14 or Chemical Screen.

RBC (Corpuscles)

Red Blood cells are split inside the liver and spleen and are made in the bone marrow.
It may increase due to high testosterone levels and dehydration.
It may be lower because of the lack of nutrients (for eg. Vitamin B6, iron, Vitamin B12, and folate), chronic inflammation, kidney dysfunction, blood loss, and anemia.


It includes the percentage of blood volume having RBCs.
Dehydration, smoking, increased testosterone levels, poor oxygen levels, lack of thiamin, and insulin resistance.
These are some of the common causes behind increased levels. On the other side, liver disease, anemia, lack of arginine, hypothyroidism, lack of protein, inflammation are caused due to lack of nutrients.

This type of protein in your blood delivers oxygen to the cells. It may increase due to poor oxygen, dehydration, increased testosterone levels, lack of thiamin, and insulin resistance.
Here are some of the common causes of a reduced level of Hemoglobin:

Liver disease,
Lack of arginine,
Lack of protein,
Inflammation is caused by a deficiency of nutrients like magnesium,
Vitamin E,
Copper, zinc, etc.


These are nucleated, small cell fragments vital for vascular integrity and clotting.
It may increase because of deficiency of iron, anemia, hemolytic, collagen problems, stress, blood loss, inflammation, and infection.
It may reduce because of liver dysfunction, alcoholism, bacterial/viral infections, bleeding, and pernicious anemia.

Mean Platelet Volume (MPV)

This is a measure of the size of the average platelets. It increases because of the increment in the production of platelets.
This is often the case because of the destruction or loss of platelets. Increased MPV value can be associated with mortality and vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, and thyroiditis.
The main causes of lower MPV include the conditions related to underproduction of platelets, including cytotoxic drug therapy or aplastic anemia.

Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin (MCH)

It determines the average weight of hemoglobin in each red blood cell.
It may increase because of the lack of nutrients like folate, vitamin B12, and Vitamin C, lack of thiamin, alcohol consumption, and hyperlipidemia.
The major causes of lower MCH include deficiency of iron and nutrients like copper, vitamin B6, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin A.

Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV)

It estimates the average size of the red blood cell.
It may increase because of a lack of nutrients (folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin C), deficiency of thiamine, and alcoholism.
The main causes of lower MCV value are the deficiency of iron and nutrients (copper, zinc, Vitamin B6, vitamin A, and C).

Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration (MCHC)

It measures the average value of hemoglobin in RBCs.
It may increase due to deficiency of nutrients (folate, vitamin B12, and Vitamin C), thiamin deficiency, consumption of alcohol, and hyperlipidemia.
The major causes of low MCHC levels are a deficiency of iron and nutrients (copper-zinc, vitamin B6, A, and C)

Performing CBC Test Correctly
There are numerous methods for conducting CBC tests. But, you need to know the procedure correctly so that you don’t get any wrong results. Here we mention some simple steps for performing a complete blood count test:

— First thing first, you have to prepare the sample properly before collecting it from your body. To do this, take 10 ml of venous blood from either the forearm vein or antecubital space of the arm, depending on where you want to collect the sample. Take 5ml of blood by inserting a needle into the vein and then squeeze gently to release blood into the syringe. Then discard the remaining 5ml. Now fill the syringe with 2ml of anticoagulant solution. After preparing all these things, place the cap on the tube containing the collected blood and keep it at room temperature for 20 minutes.
— Second, centrifuge the sample using a refrigerated centrifuge machine. This will separate the plasma from the cellular fluids. Centrifuge the tubes at 4000 RPM for 15 min. Once the process is completed, carefully remove the cap from each tube and transfer the fluid into another sterile container.
— Third, add two drops of EDTA reagent to each tube. Mix them well until they start turning pinkish. Keep the mixture aside for five minutes. Now dip one drop of the mixture into the tube containing the serum. If the result of the test is positive, the serum will change color immediately. So, this means that the EDTA has been added successfully.
— Fourth put the cap back onto the tube and store it away at -20°C for further use.

CBC can give any information about health status and also gives an idea about whether someone is healthy or not. For example, if you notice a low amount of red blood cells, then it means that person might suffer from anemia. Similarly, if you find a high number of platelets, it means that person might be suffering from thrombocytopenia, whereas, if you find a low level of neutrophil, then it means that person might be affected by chronic inflammatory disorders or severe infections.

CBC tests also help us to detect various kinds of bacteria in the bloodstream such as streptococcus, staphylococcus, salmonella, shigella, etc. If you see any abnormality in the CBC report, then you should consult a doctor immediately.
Analyzing CBC
Complete Blood Count, the blood sample is assessed in our partner laboratory. Several automated machines conduct the analysis of your blood sample with precision and reliability.

A small sample of your blood is collected from your body and is extracted into the machine.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store