In a healthy person, an annual medical checkup or Blood Test, including all baseline investigations should be enough. But you experience clinically significant signs and symptoms, then you must visit your family doctor immediately.
Look for these Clinical Signs
If you’re unsure about whether or not you need a blood test, the following warning signs should warrant a prompt visit to the doctor:
- Clubbing of fingers – this is medically known as koilonychia. It is caused by iron deficiency anemia and is marked by concave, flat spoon-shaped nails with bulging fingertips.
- Noticeable pallor of palms and feet – your friends might have noticed the paleness on your face. But if it is more prominent on your palms, especially the skin creases, then you must visit a local general physician to rule out anemia. Moreover, test the capillary refill time by pinching your fingertip, ideally, it should turn from pale to pink within two seconds or less. Pallor can also be noticed on your lower eyelid conjunctiva.
- Vascular skin patterns that suggest an underlying blood pathology: these include telangiectasia, petechiae, purpura, and ecchymosis. Telangiectasia is commonly known as spider veins and can be seen anywhere from your face to your legs. These can be hereditary or point towards an underlying, clinically asymptomatic illness. Skin discoloration, usually bluish or purple, appears cutaneously as ecchymosis which is usually larger than one cm or four inches. Smaller lesions than ecchymosis are called purpura, which as the name suggests are also purple. Whereas, red pin-point macules are known as petechiae. All of these are suggestive of underlying bleeding disorders that are either due to inadequate or abnormal production of clotting factors in the blood. Be wary of confusing these lesions with bruises that are bigger and usually precede a blunt trauma.
bleeding gums, or gum hypertrophy. All of these clinical symptoms of underlying mineral deficiencies as well as a blood disorder. Angular stomatitis is visible scarring on the angles of the mouth, this is often painful and inflamed. Bleeding and swollen, that is hypertrophic gums, suggest mineral deficiencies and acute myeloid leukemia respectively.
- Frequent bruising and bleeds: a normal protective mechanism in our blood prevents bleeding time to exceed two to seven minutes. While a blood clot forms within eight to fifteen minutes. If you have a higher tendency to bleed and bruise after minor trauma like accidentally hitting your elbow on a desk, you must consult a doctor for a blood test. Chances are that the clotting factors are insufficient or defective, as seen in hemophilia.
- Prolonged menstrual cycles, irregular and/or absent cycles: irregular menstrual bleeding makes a blood test imperative. Either there is excessive blood loss accounting for stored iron depletion or there is an imbalance of hormones. These different conditions must be ruled out and one of the baseline investigations required is the full blood count.
Lightheadedness, and lethargy: the key clinical features of iron deficiency or decreased hemoglobin include breathlessness, with or without exertion, lightheadedness especially after prolonged hours of standing and lethargy, this may also be perceived as tiredness even after long hours of rest. All of which can hamper the physical quality of life and must be immediately discussed with your general physician who will run a couple of tests in addition to the standard blood test.
- Blood in the urine. Clinically called hematuria is an abnormal finding. It can be due to an infection, glomerular disease, stones in the kidney, or some cases lower urinary tract or renal cancer. Baseline investigations include urinalysis as well as a blood test.
- Fever or malaise: blood tests do not only count the number of red blood cells, platelets, and hemoglobin present. Instead, they’re also used as confirmatory tools for ongoing infection. Increased white blood cells suggest a foreign body invasion. Additionally, increased monocytes confirm that the infection is due to a virus. Whereas, increased neutrophils are usually due to a bacterial infection. Furthermore, blood cultures can be performed for a confirmation of the infectious agent thus providing useful insight for the best antibiotic or antiviral therapy.
- Family history of leukemias, lymphomas, or other blood pathologies. Although it’s not inevitable that you will get leukemia if your ancestors had it, there is an increased risk compared to the general population without a significant history. Basic screening tests include blood tests as well as additional reports for confirmation. Thus, this may warrant more frequent visits to the doctor.