Type 2 Diabetes – Red Blood Cells and Blood Vessel Disorder
By Beverleigh H Piepers
In the normal course of things, red blood cells change form slightly as they travel through your bloodstream. Flexibility allows them to move through tiny blood vessels called capillaries, and to maneuver around corners. In diabetes these cells in your blood lose some of their flexibility. This loss has been implicated in damage to your capillaries. Presumably, loss of ability to go through blood vessels could result in abnormal destruction of red blood cells and a lower red blood cell count.
Investigators at the First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University and the Fourth People’s Hospital of Shenyang in the People’s Republic of China, set out to discover whether blood counts of these particular cells could indicate damage to small blood vessels.
Their study, published in the Journal of Vascular Health Risk Management in May 2013, included…
369 people with Type 2 diabetes.
It was found damage to small blood vessels increased as red blood cell counts decreased. When these participants were grouped by their results, the fourth group with the lowest number of red blood cells, had almost five times the risk of blood vessel damage as those in the top groups.
From this information it was concluded blood testing on a regular basis was an effective method of predicting which patients were likely to have blood vessel disease.
Blood and its vessels affect every living organ in your body. Type 2 diabetics with blood vessel disease are at risk for complications such as:
kidney disease, and
pain, numbness, and
tingling of the hands and feet.
Complete blood counts are often part of a routine medical examination. According to the National Institutes of Health in the United States:
adult men should have 4.7 to 6.1 million red blood cells per microliter,
adult women should have 4.2 to 5.4 million cells per microliter.
Hemoglobin, the molecule that holds oxygen in our blood, is also measured:
adult women should have 12.1 to 15.1 grams per deciliter of hemoglobin,
adult men should have 13.8 to 17.2 grams per deciliter.
Normal size for a red blood cell is 80 to 95 femtoliters.
There are clearly normal variations in numbers, size, and content, just as there are variations in normal height, weight, and all other human measurements. If the count goes steadily down, however, it could be a matter of concern to discuss with your doctor. A steady loss can lead to low hemoglobin measurement.
If there does appear to be a loss of red blood cells or, if the cells are getting smaller or lower in hemoglobin, it might be time to reassess your diet, exercise, and medication program for better diabetic control.