Blood count: This is what your blood values mean

Small and large blood counts are frequently carried out examinations – without medical knowledge, however, the results are often a mystery. What does it mean if the leukocyte count is elevated? And what do abbreviations like WBC, RBC, MCV or MCHC stand for? We explain what is behind the various abbreviations in the small blood count and what causes a high or low blood value can have. With our help, you can easily read your blood count yourself.

Small blood count and full blood count

A blood count (also known as a hemogram or haematogram) is carried out in various situations, for example during a routine examination in the doctor’s office, when an infection is suspected or before an operation. Depending on the situation, either a small or a large  blood test is carried out  .

small blood count  determines the  concentration of blood cells  – i.e. red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes) and blood platelets (thrombocytes). In addition, the concentration of the  red blood pigment  ( hemoglobin ) and the  hematocrit value  are measured. This indicates the proportion of blood cells in the total blood and thus says something about how viscous the blood is. A few milliliters of blood are sufficient for a small blood count.

In the case of a  complete blood count  , other blood values ​​are also determined. full blood count  consists of a small blood count and a differential blood count. The additionally performed  differential  blood count offers more precise information about the different types of white blood cells. In contrast to the small blood count, not only the total number of leukocytes is given here, but also their exact composition (granulocytes, lymphocytes and monocytes).

Reading the small blood count: abbreviations and normal blood counts

The following overview gives you an overview of the standard values ​​​​for adults in a small blood test as well as common abbreviations for the individual values ​​​​in the blood test:

Deviations in the small blood count: importance of blood values

Too high or too low values ​​in the blood test can indicate a disease. However, an increased or low blood value alone does not necessarily mean that something is wrong with you.

Below we have listed the most common causes of too low or too high values ​​in the small blood count. If there are any deviations, you should always talk to the doctor treating you, as changed blood values ​​can have numerous reasons and should always be viewed in the overall context and with a view to your state of health.


Erythrocytes , i.e. red blood cells, are important for the  transport of oxygen and  carbon  dioxide  in the body. They contain the blood pigment hemoglobin, which binds oxygen to itself.

  • Value too high: lack of oxygen (e.g. due to heart or lung diseases or due to a stay at high altitude), bone marrow disease, stress, smoking
  • Value too low:  Anemia  due to blood loss, iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency or  folic acid deficiencyceliac disease , kidney damage, infections

Sometimes the number of reticulocytes (RETIS or RETR) is also determined. The count of these young, immature red blood cells can reveal whether a change is just beginning (erythrocytes normal, reticulocytes increased) or (in a reversed picture) fading away. The normal value is 3 to 18 per 1,000 erythrocytes.


Leukocytes , i.e. white blood cells, are   of great importance for our body’s defenses . They protect the body from pathogens.

  • Value too high: acute bacterial,  fungal  or parasitic infection,  allergies , bleeding, acute poisoning, smoking, autoimmune diseases, shock,  leukemia
  • Value too low: Viral infection, diseases such as  malaria  or typhoid, overactive spleen, damage to the bone marrow (e.g. due to radiation or drugs for cancer), antibiotic treatment


Thrombocytes , i.e. blood platelets, play an important role in  blood clotting, so  an increased or decreased value usually indicates a disturbed blood coagulation.

  • Value too high: high blood loss due to surgery or injury, severe infections, cancer
  • Value too low: vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency, radiation, taking certain medications, autoimmune diseases, alcoholism, anemia, malaria

The platelet count can also be low after an increased consumption of platelets. This is the case, for example, with allergies, after infections, with an enlargement of the spleen or uncontrolled blood clotting.


The red blood pigment  hemoglobin  is responsible for  binding oxygen and carbon dioxide as well as  iron in the body  .

  • Value too high: increased erythrocyte count, stroke,  brain tumor , staying at high altitude, smoking, dehydration
  • Value too low: iron deficiency anemia, kidney disease, inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases such as  Crohn’s disease


The  hematocrit value  indicates the  ratio between solid and liquid blood components  . The higher the value, the thicker the blood and the easier it is for blood clots ( thrombosis ) to form. An increased value is therefore associated with an increased risk of a stroke or  heart attack , but also of other heart diseases or  diabetes  mellitus.

  • Value too high: dehydration, increased proliferation of erythrocytes (polyglobules)
  • Value too low: anemia, blood loss, overhydration


The following values ​​are also determined, which can be determined from the measurement of hemoglobin, hematocrit and erythrocytes:

  • MCV: indicates the average volume of an erythrocyte (MCV = hematocrit / erythrocyte count)
  • MCH: indicates the average amount of hemoglobin per erythrocyte (MCH = amount of hemoglobin / number of erythrocytes)
  • MCHC: indicates the concentration of hemoglobin within the erythrocytes (MCHC = hemoglobin concentration in the blood / hematocrit)

These blood values ​​allow a more precise statement about the erythrocytes and are of particular importance if it is to be determined whether and if so what type of anemia is present.

Sometimes the erythrocyte distribution width (RDW or EVB) is also determined in the small blood count. The size distribution of the erythrocytes is given as a percentage (normal value: 11.9 to 14.5%).

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