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What Do My Blood Test Results Mean? - Part TWO - Complete Metabolic Panel - CMP

Each laboratory decides how many tubes of blood are required.

An assortment of colored vacutainers will be used to draw your blood.

An assortment of colored vacutainers will be used to draw your blood.

Be sure to tell the phlebotomist that you want a COPY of your blood test results sent to you at your home address.

Be sure to tell the phlebotomist that you want a COPY of your blood test results sent to you at your home address.

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel - What Do My Blood Test Results Mean

3 - CMP: Electrolyte Panel

If your electrolytes are out of whack, you can feel anything from nausea to feeling like you are going to die. Keeping electrolytes in balance is essential. The tests included in this panel are Chloride (tests for adrenal or kidney problems), Carbon Dioxide (tests for breathing problems), Sodium, and Potassium. Carbon Dioxide and Chloride are always tested together but sometimes a physician will order just a Potassium level or just a Sodium level. The doctor is checking for an imbalance.

  • Potassium controls your heart and your kidneys. It is important for the proper functioning of the nerves and muscles, particularly the heart. Any value outside the expected range, high or low, requires a medical evaluation. This is especially important if you are taking a diuretic (water pill) or heart pill (Digitalis, Lanoxin, etc.).
  • Sodium regulates the kidneys and the adrenal glands. There are numerous causes of high and low Sodium levels, but the most common causes of low sodium are diuretic usage, Diabetes drugs, and excessive water intake in patients with heart or liver disease.
  • CO2 tells the acid status of your blood. Low Co2 levels can be due to increased acidity from uncontrolled Diabetes, kidney disease, OR metabolic disorders. Low CO2 can be due to chronic Hyperventilation
  • Normal range for Chloride in adults is 96-106 mEq/L. A high reading can be due to eating too much salt, dehydration, Cushing's Disease or kidney disease. A low reading can be due to too much fluid buildup, Addison's Disease, prolonged vomiting/gastric upset, congestive heart failure or lung diseases.
  • Normal range for Carbon Dioxide in adults is 23-30 mEq/L. A high reading can be due to overuse of antacids, dehydration, severe vomiting, Cushing's Disease, COPD, or blood transfusions. A low reading can be due to overuse of aspirin, alcoholism, severe malnutrition, burns, shock, heart attack, or uncontrolled diabetes.
  • Normal range for Sodium in adults is 136-145 mEq/L. A high reading can be due to not drinking enough water, a high salt diet, or high aldosterone levels (High BP, low potassium). A low reading can be due to excessive sweating, excessive diarrhea, Cirrhosis, Cystic Fibrosis (lungs), heart, kidney or thyroid problems.

If your Potassium level is in the abnormal range, it can cause serious problems in the body. For example, the most common is when the heart goes out of rhythm, commonly due to a Potassium imbalance. Muscle cramps (charley horses in calves for example), nausea, low blood pressure, confusion can all be due to a Potassium imbalance. Bananas are the perfect food, have all the nutrients a body needs, and are filling enough to count as a snack in the normal diet. I personally eat about 5 to 7 pounds of bananas per week - about 3 a day. It eliminates a supplement and helps count toward my seven small meals per day.

  • Normal range for Potassium in adults is 3.5-5.2 mEq/L. A high reading can be due to taking too much of the supplement. A class of medications called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors can raise potassium levels. A patient in a nursing home or hospital that is on tube feedings (TPN) will often have potassium levels tested. A low reading can be due to the use of diuretics, alcoholism, Cystic Fibrosis, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, malnutrition, and certain kidney diseases.
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Did You Know...

Ask for a butterfly needle. It is less painful for you

If you KNOW you are a hard stick from past experience, SUGGEST the butterfly needle for  drawing your blood. Result = less attempts at sticking you.

If you KNOW you are a hard stick from past experience, SUGGEST the butterfly needle for drawing your blood. Result = less attempts at sticking you.

4 - BUN - Blood Urea Nitrogen

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) is the waste (urea) that is formed in the liver, travels through kidneys, is filtered by the blood, then urinated out from the body. This test is routinely done to check on kidney function, map the progression of kidney disease, and/or to see if a medication is doing its job. Normal range is 6-20 mg/dL.

  • BUN increases with age. Men have a slightly higher BUN than women.
  • If your BUN is higher than normal range, it means your kidneys are not able to efficiently excrete the urea out of your body. A person with heart failure, kidney or liver disease, severe dehydration or on a high protein diet will have high BUN levels. The other end of the spectrum, lower than normal BUN levels often occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy, due to over-hydration, low protein diets, malnutrition, and severe liver damage.

Also included here on the lab form is the BUN/Creatinine Ratio. The normal ratio is 10:1 to 20:1. An increased ratio can be due to gastrointestinal bleeding, too much protein in the diet, dehydration or congestive heart failure. A decreased ratio can be due to malnutrition, vitamin deficiency or liver disease.

5 - Creatinine

Creatinine test is usually done along with BUN to assess for kidney problems and kidney function. If Creatinine and BUN results are abnormal or if you already have a disease like Diabetes that affects the kidneys, then these two tests will be done more often in order to monitor kidney dysfunction and whether the treatment you are receiving is working or not. Creatinine is a chemical waste in the body that should be excreted.

  • This test may also be ordered before any imaging study that uses a contrast that will damage the kidneys, such as a CT scan, and also before and after dialysis treatments.
  • In women the normal range is 0.4-1.0 mg/dL. In men the normal range is 0.6-1.2 mg/dL. Women have less muscle mass so their creatinine levels are usually on the low side.
  • A high reading can indicate eclampsia, cancer, shock, kidney stone, kidney damage or a severe infection. In men, it is important to consider prostate disease. A low reading can be due to a muscle disorder (for example: Myasthenia Gravis), Muscular Dystrophy, or Diabetes. Pregnancy is also a cause for slightly lower readings.

Please take a second to answer this question. Comments welcomed

Continued in Part 3

Click link for last part in this series at What Do My Blood Test Results Mean? - Part THREE - Complete Metabolic Panel - CMP

If you missed Part One in this series, here's the link: What Do My Blood Test Results Mean? - Part ONE - Complete Metabolic Panel - CMP

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