Contributed by- Dr. Dhrity Vats
Blood tests are the most common investigations recommended by doctors for any gender or age. Whether it is a few hours born infant who needs to be diagnosed for jaundice or a senior citizen wanting to know his hemoglobin levels, a blood test is the first and most reliable method of diagnosing diseases. A full understanding of blood test results help in making correct decisions about diet, lifestyle and future course of action. But at times, doctors may not tell much about blood tests results unless you ask. We have lined up a few interpretations of a blood test which will help you understand your test reports better.
1. Results can be different depending on age
A routine blood test or CBC (Complete Blood Count) shall show different ranges and results depending on the age of the individual. Hemoglobin levels would be different for an infant, a growing child, a fertile girl, a pregnant mother and an old lady. Even lifestyle choices matter while interpreting hemoglobin levels. A fit person whose BMI is in the desired range shall have higher hemoglobin.
2. Ranges differ depending on sex
There are differences in the readings of different tests in male and female. For example, calcium will be lower in post menstruation females compared to men ( they generally have higher calcium content). Hemoglobin levels are different for males and females.
3. ‘Negative’ can mean good news
The word negative in blood tests is a word with some good news. A negative result means that the test did not detect what it was looking for, whether a disease marker or a risk factor for a health condition. For example, if you were being tested for a bacterial infection in your blood and the test report says ‘Negative’ it means that bacteria weren’t present in the sample.
4. ‘Positive’ is not always good news
For tests like pregnancy the word positive means good news, but for few diseases positive isn’t always that positive. Where the test is looking in for some specific markers like in the HIV test, the hepatitis C test, breast and ovarian cancer, tumors, typhoid or malaria, sickle cell anemia, results are measured “positive” when the disease is detected. In these cases, a positive test result means you may have the disease or disorder or that you may have had it in the past as some strains still might be present.
5. False negatives are common
Sometimes, a test doesn’t show signs and readings of a disease or condition even though you actually do have it. For example, if you had a blood test for hepatitis C and the results came negative, but you were exposed to the virus in the past few months, you could still have an infection and not realise it. Getting tested again is advised if you think you were recently exposed to this infectious disease.
6. False positive happen too
In some cases, the results of any test can be altered due to the food you ate the previous night or even the way samples are given or collected. For diabetes test your doctors can ask about your food intake as that might impact the readings. For tests like Myeloma and HIV’s the doctors themselves ask for a second screening, as false positives can lead to mental trauma.
7. Abnormal results don’t always indicate an underlying disease
A blood test result that is beyond the normal range could be due to a disease or disorder. But there are other reasons also for abnormal test outcomes. Assuming that you had a blood glucose test then there are conditions that will temporarily have an impact on the results. Like; you ate something before the test or drank alcohol the night before or took a certain medicine, your result could be abnormal.
8. Reports of different labs vary
Your blood test results are compared to a range that is considered normal for a particular laboratory and this reference range is based on test results from many people previously tested in that lab. Hence, result range varies for different labs.
9.Talk to your Doctor
If your blood reports are within the normal range, the laboratory or the doctor concerned might just give away your reports saying all is normal. This definitely gives you peace. But ask your doctor if you need a follow-up. Compare the reports and check if there are any alterations in the readings and understand its impact on your health.
10. To err is human
Investigations of blood are the most important line of treatment for a patient as it helps the doctor to decide the channel of treatment, they are very common and hence mix-ups do not generally happen. But to err is human and mistakes can happen. The mistake can be during giving sample also. Even if the technician shakes the blood sample vigorously, cells can die and the results can be different. For accuracy, trust Healthians.com, our 300 touch point technology for assuring quality collection and testing across our tightly controlled network of labs and hundreds of full-time phlebotomists ensures zero human errors.
Never panic or be overconfident! Your blood holds answers to many mysteries of your body, but it is all dependant on the interpretation. So, talk to your doctor freely or ask for second opinions.
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