How to interpret Hemoglobin count results?

What is Hemoglobin?


Oxygen makes up around twenty one percent of air we inhale on earth. After we inhale, the oxygen goes in to the lungs and then is carried by a protein called hemoglobin which resides in red blood cells. Hemoglobin then delivers oxygen to various parts of our body and brings carbon dioxide back to lungs to exhale. This fascinating process is vital for our survival.


Hemoglobin is a part of routine lab test called Complete Blood Count or CBC.



Image Source: National Institute of Health (NIH)


Normal Hemoglobin range: (13.2 – 17.1 gram/deciliter) – range may very among the labs


What causes low Hemoglobin count?


  • Low hemoglobin count is called anemia. Following are the common causes of anemia:

  • Iron deficiency – (lack of iron in diet, blood loss like heavy menses or bleeding from GI tract)

  • Low folic acid or Vit B12

  • Thyroid disorder

  • Autoimmune condition (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus etc.)

  • Bone marrow disorder (aplastic anemia, leukemia etc.)

  • Other Cancers

  • Genetic hemoglobin conditions like sickle cell disease, thalassemia etc.

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Alcohol overuse or abuse


What causes high Hemoglobin count?


  • High hemoglobin and red blood cell count is called polycythemia. Following are the common causes of polycythemia:

  • Genetic causes and mutation like polycythemia vera, idiopathic familial polycythemia

  • High altitude

  • Chronic lung disease

  • Certain heart conditions where there is mixing of blood from right to left chambers

  • Sleep apnea

  • Cancers (kidney, adrenal, liver etc.)

  • Blood doping in athletes (infusing one’s own blood for improved performance)

  • Injecting drug called erythropoietin


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