Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Red Blood Cell (Erythrocyte)
Red blood cells, or erythrocytes, travel through circulating blood
carrying oxygen to body tissues and organs while removing waste. These blood
cells make up the largest part of the blood system.
As the red blood cells in blood travel through the lungs, oxygen
molecules from the lungs attach to the hemoglobin, a protein in the blood cells
that contains iron. The oxygen is then released to tissues and organs, and the
hemoglobin bonds with carbon dioxide and other waste gases. These waste
products are transported away and removed as blood continues to
Millions of red blood cells are contained in a single drop of
blood. Red blood cells are constantly being produced in the bone marrow to
replenish those that gradually wear out and die. The average life of a red
blood cell is about 120 days.
A significant decrease in the number of red blood cells causes
anemia and shortness of breath.
Current as of:
September 9, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Joseph O'Donnell, MD - Hematology, Oncology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.