Hemoglobin (Hb or Hgb) is an iron-rich protein found in red blood cells. Many physical processes in the human body require oxygen to complete. The hemoglobin can attach to the oxygen from the lungs and carry it to the body’s tissues. In some cases, an individual’s hemoglobin count may be lower than normal levels.
When your hemoglobin count is low, your body will not supply the adequate amount of oxygen it needs to function. But don’t fret just yet! A low hemoglobin count isn’t something to worry about. In most cases, having a hemoglobin count somewhat lower than the average level is not a sign of an illness. It may not affect your normal body functions. This article will discuss low mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration symptoms, causes, and treatment.
What is a Normal Hemoglobin Count?
The average Hemoglobin count differs in every individual — Your hemoglobin count changes with age, gender, and certain people.
The normal hemoglobin ranges are:
- Newborns: 17 to 22 gm/dL
- For Men: the average hemoglobin range is between13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter
- For Women: the average hemoglobin range is between 12.3 and 15.3 gm/dL
What is a Low Hemoglobin Number(Explanation)
- For men, when the hemoglobin count falls below 13.5 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter (135 grams per liter) of blood.
- For women, when the count falls below 12 grams per deciliter (120 grams per liter).
In children, low hemoglobin count may vary with sex and age. Women that are pregnant and women having their menstrual period usually have lower hemoglobin count.
Symptoms of Low Hemoglobin Count
When you have low hemoglobin, some problems may occur include:
- Dizziness and Weakness
- Pounding in the ears
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid, irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Cold hands and feet
- Pale or yellow skin
What does low hemoglobin mean? An extremely low hemoglobin count usually indicates you have anemia. Anemia is a medical condition in a person or animal with a lower than the usual number of red blood cells or hemoglobin. This condition can be caused by an underlying disease, inadequate iron intake, blood loss, nutritional deficiencies, or the side effects of certain medications.
16 Causes of Low Hemoglobin Count
What are the reasons for low hemoglobin? This condition can be caused by various diseases such as blood loss, lack of iron, ulcers, frequent blood donation, menorrhagia, cancers, or hemorrhoids. The leading causes include:
1. Iron Deficiency
An iron deficiency will cause a low hemoglobin count. The most common reason is iron deficiency and is most prevalent in older individuals and vegetarians.
2. Bleeding Lungs
A bleeding lung, or pulmonary hemorrhage, often results from high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. It occurs when platelets stop clotting, and the force of the clots burst through the walls of vessels in the lung, breaking them open.
3. Circulatory Shock
When blood vessels are damaged badly enough, vital organs don’t get the oxygen they need.
4. Myelodysplastic syndrome
This is a bone marrow disorder where the blood doesn’t make enough healthy white blood cells or red blood cells. It also decreases the hemoglobin count.
5. Lack of adequate sunlight
Lack of sufficient exposure to the sun’s rays can cause anemia by lowering hemoglobin count because sunlight increases hemoglobin production.
6. Internal or External injury
Trauma to the body can occur from an injury resulting in a low hemoglobin count. Other causes include infections, stomach ulcers, and bleeding disorders.
7. Aplastic anemia
Aplastic anemia is a severe medical condition when your body cannot produce new red blood cells. It is caused by damaged stem cells that can develop at any age.
In some cases, aplastic anemia may be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms). In other cases, aplastic anemia accompanies symptoms, including:
- Irregular or fast heart rate
- Pale skin
- Frequent or prolonged infections
- Unexplained or easy bruising
- Bleeding gums
8. Chronic kidney disease
Chronic Kidney disease is a condition that causes gradual kidney failure. This occurs when the kidneys are unable to filter waste and fluid from your blood.
Low hemoglobin count is a common complication of chronic kidney disease. Other symptoms of chronic kidney disease include nausea, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
When your liver becomes damaged by a disease, it tries to repair itself. During this rejuvenation process, healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue.
One common complication in patients with Cirrhosis is low hemoglobin count. Hemoglobin levels decrease with liver damage.
10. Iron deficiency anemia
Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common type when your body does not have enough mineral iron to produce hemoglobin and red blood cells. When there isn’t enough iron in your bloodstream, the rest of your body can’t get the amount of oxygen it needs.
11. Vitamin deficiency anemia
The body needs specific folate, vitamin B-12, and vitamin C to produce healthy red blood cells. Vitamin deficiency anemia can occur if you do not consume enough folate, vitamin B-12, or vitamin C, or if your body has difficulty absorbing or processing these vitamins.
Certain diseases and medical conditions that cause your body to destroy red blood cells faster than they can be made include:
Hemolytic anemia is a condition red blood cells are destroyed more quickly than produced. Hemolysis is the process by which red blood cells are destroyed.
13. Sickle cell anemia
This condition is one of several disorders known collectively as sickle cell disease. This condition is an inherited red blood cell disorder in which there are insufficient healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to the body.
Sickle cells quickly disintegrate and die, leaving you with an insufficient number of red blood cells. Red blood cells usually have a lifespan of about 120 days before needing to be replaced. However, sickle red blood cells last for only 10-20 days. The lack of blood cells to transport oxygen causes anemia.
Certain cancers can affect the body’s ability to produce red blood cells. Cancers that spread to the bone marrow can also cause a low hemoglobin count. Blood loss such as ulcers, tumors, hemorrhoids, or donating blood regularly can also cause a low level.
Menorrhagia is a condition a woman has heavy menstrual bleeding (bleeding more than usual). This excess bleeding can result in a low hemoglobin count.
16. Low hemoglobin during pregnancy
During pregnancy, women need to use iron to make hemoglobin to provide oxygen to their babies. If you don’t have enough iron reserves or get enough iron during pregnancy, you may experience low hemoglobin.
Other Signs and Symptoms
If your anemia is left untreated, the condition could worsen and cause other health issues, such as:
1. Extreme exhaustion
Severe anemia might leave you exhausted and unable to conduct daily duties.
2. Complications of pregnancy
Pregnant women with folate deficiency anemia are at an increased risk of problems, such as premature birth.
3. Heart failure
A rapid or erratic heartbeat can be caused by anemia (arrhythmia). When you’re anemic, your heart has to work harder to compensate for the shortage of oxygen in your blood. This condition can lead to cardiac failure or an enlarged heart.
Some inherited anemias, like sickle cell anemia, can have life-threatening consequences. Acute, severe anemia can be lethal if a large amount of blood is lost quickly.
Best Treatment for Low Hemoglobin Count
How to fix low hemoglobin? This usually depends on the underlying cause. Fortunately, you can treat low mean corpuscular hemoglobin in most cases by making simple lifestyle and dietary changes, especially if you have iron or vitamin-based anemia.
1. Consuming more iron
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common cause of low hemoglobin. Therefore, taking iron-containing foods can effectively improve symptoms.
Best Diet for Low Hemoglobin
Iron-rich vegetables mainly include radishes, broccoli, spinach, and kale. You can also eat more liver, eggs, oysters, beef, dried beans, molasses, peanut butter, pork, and whole grains. In addition, dried fruits such as raisins, plums, and dried apricots are also good sources of iron.
2. Increasing folate intake
Your body needs a particular type of vitamin B called folate. The folate is used to produce heme, an essential component of hemoglobin that carries oxygen around the body.
When your body lacks an adequate amount of folate, your red blood cells won’t reach maturity. This, in turn, affects the production of hemoglobin cells and could lead to folate-deficiency anemia.
You can boost your folate by taking foods including:
- Kidney beans
- Black-eyed peas
3. Optimizing iron absorption
While taking in foods or supplements rich in iron can boost your hemoglobin count levels, if your body cannot absorb iron properly, the levels may fall just as fast as it rises.
You can optimize your iron intake by consuming foods that help your body absorb iron. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C helps your body absorb iron and boosts hemoglobin levels.
Leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and strawberries are excellent sources of Vitamin C sources. Additionally, taking Vitamin A supplements and beta-carotene can also help your body absorb and use iron.
Foods that contain vitamin A include:
- Sweet potatoes
4. Taking iron supplements
Taking iron supplements can help improve the symptoms. Your hemoglobin count will gradually increase over a few weeks as you take the recommended accessories.
5. Anemia as a result of a chronic disease
If your anemia results from a chronic disease, your doctor will focus on treating the underlying condition. Usually, taking care of the underlying disease will improve your hemoglobin count. In some rare cases when the symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend a blood transfusion or injections of a synthetic hormone (erythropoietin) that might help stimulate red blood cell production and ease fatigue.
1. Aplastic anemia
Specific medications and chemotherapy can help to treat aplastic anemia. You may require a blood transfusion to increase the number of red blood cells.
If your bone marrow cannot produce healthy red blood cells, your doctor may have surgery for a bone marrow transplant.
2. Hemolytic anemia
Mild hemolytic anemia may not require treatment as long as the symptoms don’t worsen. Severe hemolytic can be life-threatening if it’s not treated correctly and usually requires ongoing treatment.
To treat chronic hemolytic anemia, the patient may require medications that suppress your immune system, which could be attacking your red blood cells. You may also need blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants, or surgery.
When should you see a doctor?
If you have any of the following symptoms while attempting to boost your hemoglobin level, you need to see your doctor immediately:
- Pale gums and skin
- Frequent headaches
- Frequent or unexplained bruises
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- A fast or irregular heartbeat