Physiologically, red blood cells (erythrocytes) are shaped like a biconcave disk. Thanks to this structure, they can effectively transport oxygen in our body through the ability to squeeze through even small blood vessels. For this purpose, the red blood cell deforms to return to its original shape after passing through a narrow vessel. It happens that for some reason red blood cells change their shape. Then they can take the form of ovalocytes and, as the name suggests, they have an oval shape. Then the cell loses its properties, its oxygen transfer efficiency and the ability to change its shape decrease. Ovalocytes are the form between the normal disk shape and the elliptocyte, they are less flattened than the elliptocyte.


When do ovalocytes occur?

Any appearance of ovalocytes in a peripheral blood smear should be interpreted in conjunction with the results of other laboratory tests and the patient’s clinical picture. The presence of ovalocytes may occur when:

  • iron deficiency,
  • in myelodysplastic syndromes,
  • pernicious anemia
  • in the case of thalassemia

Small amounts of ovalocytes may be physiologically present. Ovalocyte content> 25% may indicate hereditary ovalocytosis.

Southeast Asia ovalocytosis

It is a genetically inherited disease that is associated with a defect in the erythrocyte membrane. In such people, ovalocytes appear instead of disk-shaped erythrocytes. The disease is mild, very often asymptomatic. The place of most frequent occurrence of this type of ovalocytosis, as the name suggests, is South-East Asia. The disease is associated with a deletion in the SLC4A1 gene, which codes for the band 3 protein, which results in stiffness of the cell membrane. The defect of the cell membrane, in addition to the change in its permeability to ions, means that the sick are protected against malaria infection (no possibility of malaria getting through the erythrocyte membrane).

Ovalocytes – what test should be performed to detect them?

Any changes in the red cell system are diagnosed when viewing a peripheral blood smear using a microscopic method.

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Disclaimer: This page is for informational purposes only. Conversion rates have been compiled based on publicly available information. All information should be confirmed and verified. The data on the site is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Any information, result, conversion should be consulted with a doctor.

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