It is important to remember that one treats an individual and not an abnormal test result. The number of red cells normally present varies according to a person’s age and sex. Men have higher results than women and newborn babies often have higher values than adults. The presence of an elevated red cell count is called erythrocytosis. This increase in red cells may show in a blood test result as an increase in red cell number or as a rise in hemoglobin (or packed cell volume). It can be raised due to many reasons and these causes may be subdivided into whether there is a true, or absolute, erythrocytosis (polycythaemia) due to an increase in red cells, or an apparent erythrocytosis when the red cells are not increased but are instead, more concentrated. The secondary increase can be due to dehydration, diuretic drugs, burns, stress, or high blood pressure. True polycythaemia may be primary and is then called polycythaemia vera, a myeloproliferative disorder in which the RBC count increases without being stimulated by the red blood cell stimulating hormone erythropoietin. Secondary polycythaemia is due to an increase in RBC counts following an increase in the hormone erythropoietin. This hormone increase is in response to low blood oxygen, caused by heart disease or high altitude; continual exposure to carbon monoxide (heavy smoking); chronic lung disease; congenital (hereditary) disorders producing an abnormal hemoglobin or an overproduction of EPO; and kidney disease. Symptoms of polycythaemia include easy bruisability, purpuric spots on skin, blood in the stool, blood clots, painful redness of the skin and warmth in parts of the limbs, blackening of the fingers or toes (necrosis), fever, heat intolerance, weight loss, and itching.
Again, patients are treated, not lab results. If you have no symptoms there is probably no need to worry.
Also, when thinking about disorders and looking at lab results, small variations (above or below) a “normal range” are usually not considered too significant. It is when a result is “way off”, double or even triple of the normal value, that gets physicians interested.
The slight rise you have in the RBC count (two tenths of a point) could just be due to stress and dehydration (or even just living at altitude). And, the slight raise in the RBC count throws off the other values. Also, an elevation in RBC count is a finding on a lab test, it is not a disease or disorder.
This is also one reason a lot of physicians do not want to give patients their test results, without first going over them with the patient. All findings on any study have to be correlated with the patient’s history, symptoms, and physical exam.
However, if you are having any of the symptoms listed above, you should see your physician. If you want to know more about how your lab results relate to you, you should discuss it with your physician.