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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

Blood tests enable doctors to assess your health by analyzing cells, chemicals, proteins and other substances in your blood. Some tests are recommended regularly to see if blood levels of certain cells or chemicals fall within a normal range. Others are done to help diagnose health conditions, such as allergies, anemia, and diabetes.

There are two typical methods for taking a blood sample. One, called venipuncture, involves drawing a vial of blood from a vein, usually on the inner surface of your arm near your elbow. The other, called a finger stick, is done by pricking your finger with a sharp blade to obtain a small amount of blood from a capillary. The method used depends on how much blood is needed for the test you are having.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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