Aside from a comprehensive physical examination, your rheumatologist will recommend a complete blood count (CBC) test when you show symptoms or signs of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). What does your CBC reveal about polymyalgia rheumatica?
CBC is not only for checking if you are anemic. CBC is also used to determine the cause of underlying symptoms such as fever, weight loss, and weakness, which are also symptoms of PMR.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
A complete blood count (CBC) can determine if you have anemia or low red blood cell count. Your rheumy will check your results based from the normal CBC values. It can detect mild normocytic normochromic anemia. Normocytic anemia may be present even after detecting normal white blood cells and platelet counts. In other PMR patients, a platelet count may be slightly high. This condition is a result of a general response to the inflammation caused by PMR. Anemia is one of the common complications of polymyalgia rheumatica.
A CBC blood test can also measure the amount of hemoglobin in your blood and the fraction of red blood cells in the hematocrit.
Red blood cells (RBC)
Red blood cells are used to carry oxygen from your lungs and to many organs and tissues of your body. A low red blood cell rbc count means that your body is getting not enough oxygen. A shortage of oxygen can result in fatigue which is one of the common symptoms of PMR.
The normal red blood cell count for males is 4.5 to 6.0 x 10 raised to 12 per liter while female normal levels for RBC count is 4.0 – 5.4 x 10 raised to 12 per L.
Hemoglobin is the amount of protein in your red blood cells. Protein is also a carrier of oxygen and gives your blood its reddish color.
Normal red blood cells count may also be in the form of 4.7 to 6.1 million cells per microliter for men and 4.2 to 5.4 million cells per microliter for women.
The normal hemoglobin count for males is 135 to 180 grams/liter while female normal levels for hemoglobin count range from 120-160 g/l.
Elevated red blood cell count is a symptom of another disease known as polycythemia.
Hematocrit which is part of CBC test is the measure of red blood cells in percentage. A drop in your hematocrit level is also an indication of PMR. Muscle inflammation generates subtle effects on your hematocrit levels.
The normal hematocrit levels for men range from 0.40 to 0.54. The normal hematocrit level for women is 0.36 to 0.47.
Other Tests for Polymyalgia
The results of RBC count, hemoglobin and hematocrit are all considered by your rheumatologist in diagnosing polymyalgia. You definitely have anemia if all three variables are below normal complete blood count values. These results combined with the physical examination result will give your rheumatologist an idea if you have PMR. Other blood tests will be ordered by your rheumy to confirm polymyalgia. These include erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate) and C-reactive protein (CRP).
Medications or oral steroid drugs will be prescribed for the treatment of PMR. Prednisone is the most-prescribed anti-inflammatory drug for polymyalgia. Some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also be given but rheumatologists usually prefer corticosteroids to relieve symptoms of polymyalgia immediately. You can also supplement your treatment with calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods.