Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that aids in the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. The presence of iron in hemoglobin is responsible for the blood’s red color.
The presence of hemoglobin, which plays a key role in oxygen transport, also helps RBCs maintain their shape. When RBCs are in their natural stage of development, they are spherical with thin cores, similar to a donut with no hole in the middle. When they are produced inefficiently, the structure of their hemoglobin may deform, limiting their capacity to function and flow through blood vessels.
The hemoglobin count is a non-invasive test that determines the number of red blood cells in the body. Obtaining a blood sample is necessary for this determination. A high hemoglobin level may suggest the existence of a medical problem.
During a complete blood count, hemoglobin levels are measured to aid in the detection of medical issues and learning more about a person’s health.
Normal hemoglobin ranges are often dictated by an individual’s age and gender.
The Hgb levels for newborns lie in the range of 17-22gm/dL while the HGB count for adult men and women is 14-18 gm/dL and 12-16 gm/dL, respectively.
Low hemoglobin levels are a sign of anemia, which is defined as a red blood cell deficit that falls below the normal range. Anemia is characterized by a low hemoglobin count.
Individuals who live at high elevations or who smoke may have a higher hemoglobin count than the average population. When someone is dehydrated, their hemoglobin level seems abnormally high; however, this is corrected as the normal fluid balance is restored.
A high hemoglobin count happens most often when your body needs more oxygen-carrying capacity, which may be produced by any of the following:
- Living at a high altitude
Some other factors leading to increased hemoglobin production are:
- Heart or lung diseases: Emphysema, COPD, congenital heart disease and fibrosis are the medical conditions that are associated with increased Hgb count. The red blood cell production rises to compensate for persistently low blood oxygen levels caused by reduced heart or lung function. It also leads to a high Hgb count.
- Bone marrow disorder: The bone marrow generates an excessive number of red blood cells in polycythemia Vera resulting in high Hgb levels.
- Medications: Certain medicines or hormones that stimulate red blood cell formation to treat anemia, also lead to significantly increased hemoglobin levels.
On the other hand, a low hemoglobin level may suggest that you are afflicted with a condition that stops your body from generating enough RBCs.
Diseases that cause the production of fewer RBCs include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Nutritional deficiency
There are certain diseases that cause the destruction of RBCs thus resulting in the decreased count of hemoglobin. These diseases are:
- Sickle cell anemia
Similarly, frequent blood loss also leads to reduced Hgb count. It may result due to bleeding in the digestive tract. Cancer, ulcer, and hemorrhoids are the main reasons for low count.
Menorrhagia i.e. heavy menstruation also leads to low Hgb count.
Other low hemoglobin count causes include:
- Traumatic injury
- Kidney failure
There are many methods for raising hemoglobin levels, and their use is dependent on the underlying problems. Some of the ways to increase Hgb levels are:
- Blood transfusion
- Erythropoietin Injection (it is a hormone used to stimulate RBC production)
To maintain normal hemoglobin levels, it is essential to increase intake of iron-rich foods such as spinach, artichokes, eggs, beans, lean meats, and seafood. cofactor-rich foods like folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and vitamin C are also beneficial in this regard. This category includes products such as fish, nuts, cereals, vegetables, peas, and citrus fruits.
The low hemoglobin count symptoms vary depending on the severity and underlying cause. Fatigue, weakness, pale complexion, shortness of breath, disorientation, and cold hands and feet are common symptoms.
Anemia can cause chest pain, cognitive difficulties, and an increased risk of infection in more severe cases. Symptoms may appear gradually, making them easier to miss, or they may occur quickly, substantially influencing an individual’s general well-being.
A blood test, specifically a complete blood count (CBC), is used for a low hemoglobin count diagnosis. This test measures numerous blood components, including hemoglobin levels. If the hemoglobin count is lower than average, more tests may be performed to discover the underlying cause of anemia. Additional tests may involve:
- Determining the size and shape of red blood cells (a peripheral blood smear).
- Checking other blood components such as iron and vitamin B12 levels.
- Identifying any probable sources of bleeding or chronic disease.
The underlying cause determines the low hemoglobin count treatment. Supplements and dietary changes may be advised if a nutritional deficiency, such as a lack of iron or vitamin B12, causes anemia. Addressing the fundamental cause of chronic illness or medical disorders such as renal disease is critical. In severe anemia, blood transfusions may be required to boost hemoglobin levels and improve symptoms quickly. The treatment strategy is personalized to the exact diagnosis. It aims to enhance overall health and quality of life by increasing hemoglobin levels, alleviating symptoms, and improving overall health and quality of life.
When To See A Doctor
Consult your doctor if you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of a low hemoglobin level. These include:
- Pale complexion
- Erratic pulse
A high Hgb count is often discovered as a result of testing performed by the primary care physician to rule out another medical problem. The physician is likely to request further tests to ascertain the reason for the elevated hemoglobin level.
If you have a medical condition that causes high hemoglobin levels, you may need to see your doctor about therapy or medication to lower them.
A health professional may take blood from your vein using a needle and tube and put it in a bag or container. The procedure is referred to as phlebotomy. This therapy will likely need to be repeated many times before your hemoglobin levels return to normal.
This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have concerns about hemoglobin count or any other medical condition, please see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment suggestions.