I remember my parents giving me a microscope for Christmas when I was six years old. It was fascinating to look at hair, thread, grass, and anything else I could think of mounting on a slide to get a closer look. What an astounding world!
As I’ve been searching for information about RA, I’ve become quite interested in blood. Even better, since one of my children is studying anatomy & physiology for science this year, we ordered a bunch of slides and I get to investigate these things with my kid. I’m amazed at how much more is known about blood now than when I was in school (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth).
Recall that blood components can be separated in a test tube, with watery plasma at the top of the tube, and different types of blood cells beneath. It turns out that the plasma and blood cells can be investigated much more closely – and learning about them makes all those blood tests the doctor orders a lot more comprehensible!
The major types of blood cells were oh-so-creatively named based on their appearance. Can you guess what color white cells and red cells appear to be when separated from plasma?
The third main cell type is platelet cells. These look nothing like plates under the powerful microscopes used today, but in times past they were thought to look like small plates. Platelets are also called thrombocytes.
Scientists seem determined to give everything both a common name and a scientific name – think about dog/canine and cat/feline. Blood cells, too, have multiple names. If I tell you that the Greek word for white is leukos, the Greek word for red is erythros, and the Greek word for clot is thrombos, I’m guessing you won’t have any trouble matching the common and scientific cell names (and will know which kind of cell helps blood to clot).
One of the things done in a CBC is to count the number of white cells, the number of red cells, and the number of platelets. There’s a range of what’s considered a normal number of all these types of cells; anything far outside of the normal range tells the doctor that there’s something wrong.
Plasma, too, can be analyzed to determine the quantity of its various components. If you read your lab results when the doctor orders bloodwork, you’re familiar with some of these words.
To prevent posts from getting too long and overwhelming, I’ll periodically add short little bits of information about blood & blood tests.