Red blood cells or also known as erythrocytes are one type of blood cells that flow in our body. These erythrocytes have an important function for human survival, which is to distribute oxygen throughout the body. The level of erythrocytes in the body must remain within normal limits to stay healthy. Because, the normal value of erythrocytes and abnormal values can indicate that there are certain blood disorders.
Blood itself consists of three types of cells namely red blood cells, white blood cells, and also platelets. Erythrocytes are red blood cells which are blood cells with the largest volume. The volume of these erythrocytes is about 40 to 45 percent of the total blood volume. Erythrocytes generally contain hemoglobin, which is a protein whose job is to bind oxygen. So that red blood cells can carry oxygen from the lungs throughout the body.
Oxygen here is needed by tissues and organs so that they can work according to their respective functions.
Erythrocytes as well as other blood cells are produced in the spinal cord. Then, it is released into the bloodstream when it is ripe. The lifespan of an erythrocyte is about 120 days. After that, blood cells can die and must be replaced with new blood cells produced by the spinal cord.
These erythrocytes have a very elastic shape and can change shape to adapt as they flow through the small blood capillaries. These properties allow erythrocytes to spread quickly in the bloodstream to get to various organs in the body.
As we discussed earlier, these red blood cells are usually 120 days or four months old. After that, cells that are old and damaged will be broken down in the fifth organ, then replaced with new blood cells. Immature blood cells are known as reticulocytes. The amount alone can reach 1 to 2 percent of the total erythrocytes.
Normal Erythrocyte Count
Normal erythrocyte counts can generally be counted or levels measured through an examination called a complete blood test. According to Lab Tests Online, counting red blood cells through this examination includes:
- Red blood cell (RBC), is the number of red blood cells in your blood sample.
- Hemoglobin, which is the total amount of oxygen-carrying protein in the blood.
- Hematocrit, namely the percentage of the total volume of blood consisting of red blood cells.
- Mean corpuscular (MCV), namely the average size of erythrocytes.
- Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH), is the average amount of hemoglobin in the erythrocytes.
- Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC) is the average concentration of hemoglobin in the erythrocytes.
- Red cell distribution width (RDW), namely the variation in the size of the erythrocytes.
- Reticulocytes, namely the absolute number or percentage of newly formed young erythrocytes in your blood sample.
After that, the doctor will measure the number of red blood cells in the body to help diagnose medical conditions and also learn more about our health. The normal number of erythrocytes is:
- Newborn: 4.8-7.1 million cells/microliter
- Infants 2-8 weeks: 4-6 million cells/microliter
- Infants 2-6 months: 3.5-5.5 million cells/microliter
- Infants 6-12 months: 4.5-5.2 million cells/microliter
- Children 1-18 years: 4-5.5 million cells/microliter
- Adult male: 4.7-6.1 million cells/microliter
- Adult women: 4.2-5.4 million cells/microliter
- Adult women: 4.1-5.1 million/microliter
- Pregnant women in the 1st trimester: 3.42 – 4.55 million/microliter
- Pregnant women in the 2nd trimester: 2.81 – 4.49 million/microliter
- Pregnant women in the 3rd trimester: 2.72 – 4.43 million/microliter
As for the normal amount of other components examined in the red blood cells, namely:
- Hemoglobin: For men it is 13.2 – 16.6 gram/dL, while for women it is 11.6 – 15.0 gram/dL
- Hematocrit: For men it is 38.3 – 48.6 percent, while for women it is 35.5 – 44.9 percent
You may need more tests to determine what is causing your high or low blood cell count. These include tests to look for conditions that cause our bodies to produce too many red blood cells, such as tests for heart failure, or tests to detect disorders that limit oxygen supply, such as sleep apnea.
It has been explained previously that erythrocytes are the most numerous cells in the body. The function of erythrocytes is to carry oxygen from the lungs to all tissues and organs. In erythrocytes, there is a protein compound, namely hemoglobin, where this compound can bind iron, so it can give blood a red color.
Abnormal Values In Erythrocytes
If a person’s erythrocyte level is too high or too low, then this indicates that there is a problem with the red blood cells. When the erythrocyte count is too high, this condition is called polycythemia. Meanwhile, if the erythrocyte value is too low, then this condition is called anemia.
1. Erythrocyte Value Too High
The value or number of erythrocytes that is too high is usually caused by an increase in the number of erythrocytes or red blood cells. This condition is included in conditions that are quite rare. The most common causes of high erythrocyte values or polycythemia are caused by conditions such as the following:
a. Lung Disease
Polycythemia or high erythrocytes can be caused by disorders of the lungs. Where this lung disease can cause a person difficulty breathing and also absorbing oxygen in the normal amount needed by the body. So, the body will react by producing more red blood cells due to this condition.
b. Congenital Heart Disease
The cause of high erythrocyte values can also be caused by congenital heart disease. Congenital heart disease causes the heart to be unable to pump efficiently. Therefore, the supply of oxygen to the tissues and organs of the body decreases. Just like a disorder in the lungs, the body will also react by producing more red blood cells.
c. Polycythemia Vera
Polycythemia vera is a disorder that causes uncontrolled production of red blood cells. This condition is not common and usually develops slowly. Generally, this condition is not only diagnosed through an erythrocyte test, but also a hematocrit test. In addition to blood tests, a bone marrow aspiration or biopsy is also needed to confirm this condition.
d. Kidney Tumor
Kidney tumors can cause a condition where the number of erythrocytes is too high. This condition can cause excess production of erythropoietin. Erythropoietin is a hormone produced by the kidneys.
Where this hormone has a role in increasing the formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow. There are other conditions that can cause an increase in the number of erythrocytes, such as smoking habits or dehydration. Some of these causes may require further examination to confirm the diagnosis.
e. Low Oxygen Levels
The Mayo Clinic says that our bodies can automatically increase red blood cell production to compensate for low oxygen levels. The following are some of the causes of low oxygen levels in the body that can increase the number of red blood cells, including:
- heart disease, such as congenital heart disease in adults,
- heart failure,
- hemoglobinopathy, which is a birth condition that reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells,
- is in a high position,
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
- fibrosis paru,
- other lung disease
- sleep apnea, and
- nicotine dependence (smoking).
Management of High Erythrocytes
If not handled properly, high erythrocytes will be at risk of causing complications in the form of blockage of blood vessels, for example, deep vein thrombosis, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and also heart attack. In addition, high levels of erythrocytes can also make a person prone to bleeding. To deal with an erythrocyte value that is too high, the doctor must first determine what is causing it.
Once the cause is known, the doctor can prescribe drugs, such as aspirin, interferon, and also hydroxycarbamide, to reduce the excessive number of red blood cells and prevent blood vessel blockage.
To be able to determine the number of erythrocytes in the body, we need to do regular health checks to the doctor. If the results of the doctor’s examination show that we have high erythrocytes, the doctor will determine the appropriate treatment steps to treat this condition.
2. Too Low Erythrocyte Value
Erythrocyte values that are too low are usually indicated by low red blood cell and hematocrit values. This condition is also known as anemia. The following are some conditions that can cause low erythrocyte values, namely:
a. Great Blood Loss
Low levels of red blood cells can be caused by trauma caused by the body losing a lot of blood. This condition can be caused by severe trauma or chronic bleeding in certain bodies, for example:
- In the digestive tract (caused by polyps, stomach ulcers, and colon cancer)
- Uterus (heavy menstrual bleeding)
- External bleeding
b. Deficiency of Certain Nutrients
There are several types of anemia caused by deficiencies of certain nutrients. This animea is iron deficiency anemia, folic acid deficiency anemia, and also vitamin B12 deficiency anemia.
c. Excessive destruction of red blood cells
Excessive destruction or damage to red blood cells can cause low levels of erythrocytes, causing anemia. Causes of this excessive destruction of red blood cells include hemolytic anemia, G6PD deficiency, sickle cell anemia, and other causes.
Thalassemia is a blood disorder, in which the production of hemoglobin is less than normal. This condition can later trigger a low erythrocyte value. Thalassemia is a type of blood disorder caused by genetic factors.
e. Spinal Cord Disorders
Another cause of low erythrocyte values is due to disorders of the spinal cord. These disorders include aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, cancer that attacks the marrow (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, etc.). Damage to the marrow can also be caused by poison, radiation such as infection, chemotherapy, to the effects of drugs.
f. Chronic Disease or Inflammation
Disease or chronic inflammation such as kidney failure can also cause decreased erythrocyte values. The opposite of kidney tumors, kidney failure can cause decreased production of erythropoietin. So the production of red blood cells also decreases. Just like the condition of the red blood cell count that is too high, several conditions that cause low erythrocytes also require other tests besides a red blood test to determine the cause.
Other chronic diseases that can cause low erythrocytes are:
- Autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and so on
- Infections in the body, such as infection with the HIV virus or the virus that causes tuberculosis (TB)
- Cancers, such as multiple myeloma and leukemia
- Inflammation of the intestine, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
How to Overcome Low Erythrocytes
Low erythrocytes require certain treatment methods based on the cause. The following are several ways to deal with low erythrocytes, including:
1. Adequate Nutrition Needs
Low erythrocytes can be caused by a deficiency in certain nutrients. To overcome this condition, try to eat the following foods:
- Foods that are high in iron, such as lean meat, nuts, seafood, raisins, chicken, duck, and so on.
- Foods high in folic acid, such as spinach, liver, cabbage, asparagus, or fortified breads and cereals.
- Foods rich in vitamin B12, such as meat, chicken, fish, milk, dairy products, eggs, and so on.
- Foods that contain vitamin A and can help iron get to red blood cells, such as fish, eggs, liver, green vegetables, tomatoes, and so on.
Apart from regularly consuming the foods above, nutritional needs can also be met by taking these nutritional supplements which can help meet one’s daily needs.
2. Lifestyle Changes
These lifestyle changes can help increase the number of erythrocytes in the body. For example, namely:
- Get used to a healthy diet
- Avoid smoking and vitamin deficiency conditions
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol or aspirin
Try to adopt the above lifestyle habits to overcome low erythrocyte count.
3. Medical Treatment
Some cases of low erythrocytes can be caused due to chronic conditions. Medical treatment is certainly needed to help treat this condition. The following are some of the medical treatments that may be given to patients to treat low erythrocytes.
- Patients with spinal cord disorders will be treated by prescribing special medicines. If these drugs do not help, then the patient may be advised to do a bone marrow transplant.
- Chronic conditions that cause EPO to be disturbed will be treated with medication according to the causative factors. Your doctor may prescribe an EPO stimulating agent.
- Blood loss due to several factors can be treated with blood transfusion procedures.
Erythrocytes are the most numerous pieces of blood cells in the body. We need to avoid low erythrocyte levels to maintain health and prevent more serious conditions, such as heart problems and death.
This is an explanation of what erythrocytes are and the normal value of erythrocytes in the body and how to handle them.