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What is a Reticulocyte Count?

A reticulocyte count measures immature red blood cells in your bloodstream, offering vital clues about your body's blood production health. It's a key test for diagnosing anemia or monitoring bone marrow function. Intrigued by how this count reflects your well-being? Discover the significance of these young cells and what their levels mean for you. Ready to uncover more?
Dulce Corazon
Dulce Corazon

The reticulocyte count is a type of blood test which evaluates the functions of the bone marrow and at what rate blood production takes place. It is also done to assess the response of the body in the treatment of some blood disorders like anemia. Reticulocytes are young or immature red blood cells usually present in the circulation in very small amounts, approximately about one to two percent. They are produced in the bone marrow and released in the circulation. After about one or two days, they mature into red blood cells, which have a lifespan of approximately 120 days in circulation.

An increase or decrease in the number or percentage of reticulocytes in the blood can point to a number of disorders inside the body. The term used for a high reticulocyte count is reticulocytosis. Reticulocytosis often indicates that the bone marrow is producing more red blood cells (RBC) as a response to a decrease in RBC in the circulatory system. This could be due to blood loss, the destruction of RBC in anemia, or exposure to high altitudes. Individuals living in high altitude areas often have higher reticulocyte counts as the body's way of adjusting to the low oxygen level.

A blood sample is required to get a reticulocyte count.
A blood sample is required to get a reticulocyte count.

A decrease in the reticulocyte count often indicates failure of the bone marrow to produce new red blood cells, as in cases of tumors and infections occurring in the bone marrow. Kidney disease can also decrease the reticulocyte count and red blood cell count. Other causes of low reticulocyte counts include iron deficiency, folate deficiency, and vitamin B12 deficiency. Radiation therapy also often affect RBC production in many patients, as it suppresses the functions of the bone marrow.

People who live at high altitudes usually have higher levels of reticulocytes.
People who live at high altitudes usually have higher levels of reticulocytes.

Physicians usually request a reticulocyte count as well as a complete blood count (CBC) in order to evaluate the response of the body in the treatment of iron deficiency anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. The rise in the reticulocyte count and other blood indexes usually indicates that the bone marrow is responding well to such treatment. After bone marrow transplants, a rise in reticulocyte counts is also an indication of a successful transplant.

Reticulocytes are young or immature red blood cells usually present in the circulation in very small amounts.
Reticulocytes are young or immature red blood cells usually present in the circulation in very small amounts.

There are no special preparations for a reticulocyte count test. A phlebotomist extracts an amount of blood from the arm of a patient to be tested. The blood is then processed in the laboratory for the reticulocyte count, and is either read manually by a qualified laboratory personnel or through an automated method.

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    • A blood sample is required to get a reticulocyte count.
      By: Alexander Gospodinov
      A blood sample is required to get a reticulocyte count.
    • People who live at high altitudes usually have higher levels of reticulocytes.
      By: Calin Tatu
      People who live at high altitudes usually have higher levels of reticulocytes.
    • Reticulocytes are young or immature red blood cells usually present in the circulation in very small amounts.
      By: Dmitry Sunagatov
      Reticulocytes are young or immature red blood cells usually present in the circulation in very small amounts.
    • A phlebotomist is typically responsible for extracting the blood necessary to perform a reticulocyte count.
      By: Goran Bogicevic
      A phlebotomist is typically responsible for extracting the blood necessary to perform a reticulocyte count.
    • A reticulocyte count may be done to assess the effectiveness of treatment for anemia.
      By: joshya
      A reticulocyte count may be done to assess the effectiveness of treatment for anemia.
    • A reticulocyte count is used to determine if the bone marrow is producing blood cells at a proper rate.
      By: spflaum
      A reticulocyte count is used to determine if the bone marrow is producing blood cells at a proper rate.