Red Blood Cells
Posted September 12, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read
Red blood cells bring oxygen to the tissues in your body and release carbon dioxide to your lungs for you to exhale. Oxygen turns into energy, which is an essential function to keep your body healthy.
What are red blood cells?
Red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes, deliver oxygen to the tissues in your body.
Oxygen turns into energy and your tissues release carbon dioxide.
Your red blood cells also transport carbon dioxide to your lungs for you to exhale.
What do red blood cells do?
Red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from your lungs to your body’s tissues.
Your tissues produce energy with the oxygen and release a waste, identified as carbon dioxide.
Your red blood cells take the carbon dioxide waste to your lungs for you to exhale.
Where are red blood cells made?
Red blood cells develop in your body’s soft bone tissue (bone marrow) and release into your bloodstream after they fully mature, which takes about seven days.
What do red blood cells look like?
Red blood cells get their bright red color from a protein that allows them to carry oxygen from your lungs and deliver it to other tissues in your body (hemoglobin).
Red blood cells are microscopic and have the shape of a flat disk or doughnut, which is round with an indentation in the center, but it isn’t hollow.
Red blood cells don’t have a nucleus like white blood cells, allowing them to change shape and move throughout your body easier.
What are red blood cells made of?
Red blood cells grow in your bone marrow. Bone marrow creates almost all of the cells in your body. Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen.
What are the common conditions that affect red blood cells?
Red blood cell conditions have either a low or high red blood cell count.
Medical conditions that affect a low red blood cell count include:
Anemia: Your blood carries less oxygen than normal and causes your body to feel cold, tired and weak.
Blood loss: Your body loses more blood cells than it can produce.
Bone marrow disorder: You experience damage to your bone marrow, where red blood cells form (leukemia, lymphoma).
Cancer: Certain cancers and chemotherapy treatment for cancer can affect the number of red blood cells your body produces.
Medical conditions that affect a high red blood cell count include:
Polycythemia Vera: A high red blood cell count causes your blood to thicken, leading to heart attack or stroke.
Congenital heart disease: One or more structures in your heart is irregular due to not forming completely during fetal development.
Lung disease: The tissue in your lungs scars due to emphysema, COPD or pulmonary fibrosis.
Hypoxia: The oxygen level in your blood is low.
Carbon monoxide: Smoking increases your chance of exposure to carbon monoxide.
What are common symptoms of red blood cell conditions?
Lack of energy.
Headache or dizziness.
Cold hands and feet.
What causes a low red blood cell count?
Causes that contribute to low red blood cell count include:
Vitamin deficiency (iron, B9 and B12).
Preexisting medical conditions or cancer treatment (chemotherapy).
What causes a high red blood cell count?
Causes that contribute to a high red blood cell count include:
Living at a high elevation.
Taking performance-enhancing drugs (anabolic steroids).
Medical condition including heart or lung disease.
What are common tests to check the health of my red blood cells?
A complete blood count (CBC) test examines how many blood cells (red and white) are in your blood. A medical professional will sample your blood to count how many red blood cells are present.
What is a normal red blood cell count?
Normal red blood cell counts differ based on the individual:
Men: 4.7 to 6.1 million red blood cells per microliter of blood.
Women: 4.2 to 5.4 million red blood cells per microliter of blood.
Children: 4.0 to 5.5 million red blood cells per microliter of blood.
If your count is outside of these ranges, it is either too high or too low and your healthcare provider will offer additional tests or treatments.
What are common treatments for red blood cell disorders?
Treatment for red blood cell disorders varies based on the diagnosis and severity of the condition. Treatment ranges from:
Eating a well-balanced diet.
Treating existing medical conditions.
Getting a blood transfusion.