Did you know that every second about 2.5 million red blood cells are taken out of circulation by your spleen (if you have one) and broken down (hemolysis). Some of their parts are sent to the bone marrow to make new ones and the rest is excreted out through your bowel. The turn over rate for an erythrocyte, medical term for red blood cell, is about 120 days. And to maintain homeostasis production must equal removal rate.
Red blood cell function is primarily to transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of you, which is accomplished through binding to its hemoglobin. So how much oxygen your cells receive depends on the quantity and quality of your erythrocytes. The function of these cells also play a very minor role in transporting carbon dioxide, as most of this metabolic waste is carted off in the blood’s plasma.
Blood cells are formed in the bone marrow out of undifferentiated stem cells. These stem cells can develop into any kind of blood cell. As such, they are not only starter cells for erythrocytes, but leukocytes and platelets as well. Because red blood cells contain a large amount of hemoglobin to maximize oxygen transport, they have no nucleus to repair any damage. This accounts for their high rate of turn over.
Erythrocytes are the most abundant cells in your blood. The count of your red blood cells is usually a part of a complete blood count test. Generally, the healthy range is 4.7 to 6.1 million cells per microliter for males and 4.2 to 5.4 million cells per microliter for females. Although these count ranges of erythrocytes can differ slightly among laboratories.
In some cases, a red blood cell count can be helpful tool in diagnosing numerous health conditions, for instance:
- kidney disease
- Alport syndrome
- G6PD deficiency
- multiple myeloma
- polycythemia vera
- renal cell carcinoma
- primary myelofibrosis
- bone marrow failure ~ radiation, toxins, tumor
Certain drugs, moving to a high altitude and smoking can have an affect on your counts too.