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Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library CD4+ Count Test

CD4+ Count Test

Test Overview

A CD4+ count is a blood test to determine how well the immune system is working in people who have been diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). CD4+ cells are a type of white blood cell. White blood cells are important in fighting infections. CD4+ cells are also called T-lymphocytes, T-cells, or T-helper cells.

HIV infects CD4+ cells. The number of CD4+ cells helps determine whether other infections (opportunistic infections) may occur. The pattern of CD4+ counts over time is more important than any single CD4+ value because the values can change from day to day. The CD4+ pattern over time shows the effect of the virus on the immune system. In people infected with HIV who are not getting treated, CD4+ counts generally decrease as HIV progresses. A low CD4+ count usually indicates a weakened immune system and a higher chance of getting opportunistic infections.

Why It Is Done

Why It Is Done

CD4+ counts are done to:

  • Monitor how the HIV infection is affecting your immune system.
  • Help diagnose acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV infection can progress to AIDS, which cannot be cured.
  • Evaluate your risk for other infections (opportunistic infections).
  • Decide when to start treatment to prevent opportunistic infections, such as medicines to prevent Pneumocystis pneumonia.

A CD4+ cell count taken at the time you are diagnosed serves as the baseline against which future CD4+ cell counts will be compared. Your CD4+ cell count is monitored every 3 to 6 months, depending on your health status, previous CD4+ cell counts, and whether you are taking antiretroviral therapy medicines.

How To Prepare

How To Prepare

Before you have this test, you may have the opportunity to meet with a counselor so that you understand what the test results could mean about your HIV infection.

How It Is Done

How It Is Done

A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.

How It Feels

How It Feels

When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

Risks

There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.

Results

Results

CD4+ cell count results are generally available in 1 to 3 days, depending on the lab.

Each lab has a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should show the range that your lab uses for each test. The normal range is just a guide. Your doctor will also look at your results based on your age, health, and other factors. A value that isn't in the normal range may still be normal for you.

In people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), as the CD4+ count drops, it becomes more likely that acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) will develop.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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