Advertisement
The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource
Follow Us Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Download Our App
Professionals >> Visit The Body PROThe Body en Espanol
Read Now: Expert Opinions on HIV Cure Research
  
  • Email Email
  • Comments Comments
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

Understanding HIV-Related Lab Tests I: Complete Blood Count and Blood Chemistry

July 2013

 < Prev  |  1  |  2 


Blood Chemistry (Chemistry or Chem Screens)

Blood chemistry tests, also called chemistry or chem screens, measure certain chemicals in your blood. Results of these tests give your health care provider important information about your general health status, how well organs like the liver and kidneys are working, and whether you may be experiencing drug side effects. Abnormal results can indicate a problem that needs to be addressed. Important blood chemistry tests include:

  • Liver function
    These tests help measure how well your liver is working. Some of the tests measure liver enzymes such as alanine transaminase (ALT or SGPT), aspartate transaminase (AST or SGOT), and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). High levels of liver enzymes may be a sign of liver damage. Several HIV drugs can cause elevated liver enzymes. Liver function tests also include bilirubin, which comes from the breakdown of hemoglobin from RBCs. High levels of bilirubin may indicate liver problems. Taking the HIV drug Reyataz (atazanavir) can increase bilirubin levels. However, a rise in bilirubin due to taking Reyataz is harmless.
  • Kidney function
    These tests help measure how well your kidneys are working. They include blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and uric acid. Kidney tests are especially important if you are taking Viread (tenofovir).
  • Electrolytes
    Electrolytes play important roles in the healthy functioning of cells, nerves, and organs. Bicarbonate (CO2), chloride, potassium, and sodium are electrolytes. Electrolyte imbalances may be caused by not getting enough nutrients (malnutrition) or water (dehydration), or by kidney problems.
  • Blood sugar (glucose)
    Your body uses glucose for energy. High glucose levels (hyperglycemia) can be a sign of diabetes or insulin resistance (when the body does not respond to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas to help control glucose levels). High glucose levels can be a side effect of HIV drugs. Your health care provider can monitor your levels through glucose tests. For the most accurate results, it is best to check glucose levels when you have been fasting (not eating or drinking anything but water for about eight hours). For more information, see our Diabetes info sheet.
  • Blood fat (lipids)
    Many HIV+ people have an increased amount of fat, or lipids, in their blood such as cholesterol and triglycerides. Higher cholesterol levels can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Higher triglycerides can increase the risk of damage to the pancreas (pancreatitis). Your lab report will list the amount of the following lipids in your blood (for the most accurate results, it is best to check lipid levels when you have been fasting):

    • Total cholesterol
      Cholesterol is a fatty substance that circulates in the blood. It is best to keep your total cholesterol level below 200.
    • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL)
      This is "bad" cholesterol, which can clog the arteries. It is best to keep your LDL level below 100.
    • High-density lipoproteins (HDL)
      This is "good" cholesterol, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease. It is best to get your HDL level up to at least 40.
    • Triglycerides
      After eating, energy that is not needed right away is converted into a substance called triglycerides, which is stored in fat cells. It is best to keep your triglyceride level below 150.
  • HIV disease and HIV drugs can both cause increased lipids (hyperlipidemia). Staying physically active, eating well, and certain medications can help lower high lipid levels. For more information, see our info sheets on Hyperlipidemia and Lipodystrophy and Body Shape Changes.

  • Blood proteins
    These tests provide information on nutrition problems and help diagnose kidney disease, liver disease, and many other conditions. Tests include albumin and total protein.
  • Calcium
    Calcium, one of the most important minerals in your body, is a major part of bones and teeth. Blood calcium is tested to check for a range of conditions relating to the bones, heart, nerves, kidneys, and teeth. It is important to remember that you can still have weak bones (osteoporosis), even if your calcium blood test is normal. For more information, see our info sheet on Bone Health.

Labs routinely group certain chem screen tests together and call them panels. Some common panels you may see listed on your lab report are:

  • Basic metabolic panel: Includes calcium, electrolytes, kidney function, and glucose
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel: Includes same tests as basic panel plus blood proteins and liver function
  • Lipid panel: Includes cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides


The Bottom Line

Since many HIV+ people have no noticeable symptoms of health problems, it is important to get regular lab tests to monitor how you are doing. Abnormal blood tests can be a sign of serious health problems and need to be addressed as soon as possible so that you remain healthy and strong.

Whether you are taking HIV drugs or not, all the tests listed above are a key part of your medical care. Regular monitoring is an important way to take charge of your health.

 < Prev  |  1  |  2 


  
  • Email Email
  • Comments Comments
  • Printable Single-Page Print-Friendly
  • Glossary Glossary

This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
 
See Also
Understanding Lab Tests II: Viral Load, Resistance and Tropism
More on Monitoring Tests

No comments have been made.
 

Add Your Comment:
(Please note: Your name and comment will be public, and may even show up in
Internet search results. Be careful when providing personal information! Before
adding your comment, please read TheBody.com's Comment Policy.)

Your Name:


Your Location:

(ex: San Francisco, CA)

Your Comment:

Characters remaining:

Tools
 

Advertisement