RDW Blood Test: What Red Cell Distribution Width Indicates

Measurements of RDW that are beyond the normal range may indicate a possible problem and can adversely affect the bodily functions of individuals as Red blood cells are needed for the oxygen to reach the entire body.

rdw blood test

The red cell distribution width (RDW) blood test measures the amount of red blood cell variation based on volume and on size. Red blood cells are essential as they help the body carry oxygen from lungs to all points of the body. Measurements of RDW that are beyond the normal range may indicate a possible problem and can adversely affect the bodily functions of individuals as Red blood cells are needed for the oxygen to reach the entire body. Normal Red blood cells should have a range of six (6) to eight (8) micrometers in diameter and having a larger measurement of red blood cells may indicate certain nutritional deficiencies such as anemia or other medical conditions.

What are RDW tests for?

The red cell distribution width blood test or RDW is an effective measuring tool used to detect anemia and other underlying medical conditions such as thalassemias, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, liver diseases and cancers. Doctors usually conduct RDWs in conjunction with CBC or complete blood count. CBCs can give a complete picture of an individual’s blood and its characteristics such as the types and number of blood cells, measurement of platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells. This CBC test can determine a person’s overall health and the possible infections, illnesses and medical conditions of the individual. A medical professional may want to look into the CBC including RDW to check for the following health conditions:

  • Anemia that may cause dizziness, pale skin and numbness
  • Deficiency in iron and vitamin
  • Blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia
  • Blood loss due to surgery and trauma
  • Presence of disease that affects that blood particularly the Red Blood cells
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or the Auto Immune Disease Syndrome (AIDS)

How to Prepare for the Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) Blood Test

Most Blood tests such as the red cell distribution width (RDW) blood test may require fasting. The patient’s medical partner or doctor will give the appropriate instructions before the test can be conducted. The RDW Blood Test takes no more than five (5) test and will usually have a medical practitioner take a sample of the patient’s blood for further lab testing.

How are the results of the Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) Test interpreted?

Adult females should have a normal range of 11.9 to 15.5 percent while adult males should have a normal range of 11.8 to 15.6 percent. Going beyond or lower than the normal range may indicate some form of nutrient deficiency, infection or other blood disorder. It is important to note though, that normal ranges of Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) is not a guarantee that there are no medical issues as even at normal RDWs there could still be some underlying medical condition.

High Results for the Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) Blood Test

An RDW that is too high could be a symptom of nutrient deficiency such a deficiency such as iron, folate or vitamin B-12. A high RDW Blood test can also be a symptom of macrocytic anemia which means that the body does not produce enough normal blood cells resulting in cells that are larger than normal. A deficiency in vitamin B or folate causes this. This may also mean that the patient may have microcytic anemia, a condition resulting in smaller blood cells than the acceptable standard. A deficiency in iron usually causes Microcytic anemia. Basically speaking, a high MCV with high RDW means the patient has macrocytic anemia while a low MCV with high RDW means the patient has microcytic anemia.

Normal Results for the Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) Blood Test

A patient who will score a normal RDW with Low MCVs may mean that the individual may have anemia caused by a chronic disease such as chronic kidney disease. An RDW result that is normal coupled with a high MCV may indicate aplastic anemia, a condition where the body, particularly the bone marrow, can’t produce enough blood cells particularly red blood cells.

High RDW results and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer

A study conducted in 2010 established a possible connection between high rdw results and cardiovascular disease such as heart failure and heart attack. Researchers determined that patients with hypertension combined with high RDW results are at an increased risk of carotid artery atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Researchers even linked high Red cell distribution Width (RDW) blood test results to an increased possibility of having carotid plaque, a condition that worsens heart health of individuals.

A more recent research conducted in 2015 also showed the possibility of linking high Red cell distribution Width (RDW) blood tests to the risk of cancer development. The research pointed to and referenced the earlier research on RDWs relationship with cardiovascular disease and how carotid plaque can worsen inflammation and swelling within the body. Inflammation and swelling are both major risk factors in terms of cancer. Malignant cancer tumors have been shown exhibit prolonged inflammatory response and carotid plaque present in patients with high RDW may worsen the said inflammatory response of the body, exposing the individual to the higher possibility of developing cancer.

How to address Anemia identified by Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) Blood Test?

The good news is that anemia, once identified by the Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) Blood Test, can be addressed by some simple and natural home remedies such as improving stomach acid, using apple cider vinegar, going for an anti-inflammatory diet, eliminating food sensitivities, resolving gastrointestinal infections, healing a leaky gut, taking iron supplementation, taking B12 and folate supplementation, increasing the intake of iron through food items like beef, squash seeds, nuts lentils and pasture egg yolk, increasing folate intake, increasing B12 supplementation, eating fermented foods and eating liver.

Red Cell Distribution Width (RDW) Blood Tests can be an indispensable tool for doctors to determine various health conditions such as anemia which will ultimately result in better patient response and medication to address the identified health issues.

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