What is a low hemoglobin count?
Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that helps blood carry oxygen throughout the body. (Hemoglobin contains iron, which gives blood its red color.) The hemoglobin count is an indirect measurement of the number of red blood cells in your body. A low hemoglobin count may indicate an underlying health condition.
In many cases, a low hemoglobin count is only slightly lower than normal and doesn’t affect how you feel. If it gets more severe and causes symptoms, your low hemoglobin count may indicate you have anemia.
A low hemoglobin count is generally defined as less than 13.5 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter (135 grams per liter) of blood for men and less than 12 grams per deciliter (120 grams per liter) for women. In children, the definition varies with age and sex. The threshold differs slightly from one medical practice to another.
How common is a low hemoglobin count?
lA low hemoglobin count is common. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Which signs and symptoms can low hemoglobin count usually be associated with?
Related signs and symptoms include:
- Skin paleness
- Shortness of breath
- Abnormal or rapid heartbeat
- Pain in your chest
- Cold, swollen hands or feet
- Trouble with physical activity
What causes low hemoglobin count?
A slightly low hemoglobin count isn’t always a sign of illness — it may be normal for some people. Women who are pregnant commonly have low hemoglobin counts.
A low hemoglobin count can be associated with a disease or condition that causes your body to have too few red blood cells. This can occur if:
- Your body produces fewer red blood cells than usual
- Your body destroys red blood cells faster than they can be produced
- You experience blood loss
Diseases and conditions that cause your body to produce fewer red blood cells than normal include:
- Aplastic anemia
- Certain medications, such as anti-retroviral drugs for HIV infection and chemotherapy drugs for cancer and other conditions
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Lead poisoning
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Vitamin deficiency anemia
Diseases and conditions that cause your body to destroy red blood cells faster than they can be made include:
- Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
- Sickle cell anemia
- Vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation)
A low hemoglobin count can also be due to blood loss, which can occur because of:
- Bleeding from a wound
- Bleeding in your digestive tract, such as from ulcers, cancers or hemorrhoids
- Bleeding in your urinary tract
- Frequent blood donation
- Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding)
The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of low hemoglobin count. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
What increases my risk for low hemoglobin count?
There are many risk factors for low hemoglobin count, such as:
- Deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals
- Frequent blood donation
- Excessive alcohol use
- Heavy menstruation
Please consult with your doctor for further information.
When to see your doctor
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has any of the following:
- Pale skin and gums
- Shortness of breath
- A fast or irregular heartbeat
On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage low hemoglobin count?
These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with low hemoglobin count:
- Eat foods high in iron and folate. Foods that are high in iron include liver and organ, meats, shellfish, beef, broccoli, kale, spinach, green beans, cabbage, beans and lentils, tofu, baked potatoes, fortified cereals and enriched bread. You can add folate to your diet by eating more beef, spinach, black-eyed peas, avocado, lettuce, rice, kidney beans, peanuts, etc.
- Take iron supplements. If you need to raise your hemoglobin level by a lot, you may need to take oral iron supplements. However, too much iron can cause a condition called hemochromatosis. This can lead to liver diseases such as cirrhosis, and other side effects, such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting. Work with your doctor to figure out a safe dose, and avoid taking more than 25 milligrams (mg) at one time.
- Maximize iron absorption. When you eat something high in iron or take an iron supplement, try eating foods rich in vitamin C or take a supplement at the same time. Vitamin C may help to increase the amount of iron your body absorbs. Try squeezing some fresh lemon over iron rich foods to increase absorption. Vitamin A and beta-carotene, which helps your body produce vitamin A, can also help your body absorb more iron. You can find vitamin A in animal food sources, such as fish and liver.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Low hemoglobin count. https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/low-hemoglobin/basics/definition/sym-20050760. Accessed January 11, 2019.
Hemoglobin (Hgb) Test Results. https://www.healthline.com/health/hgb. Accessed January 11, 2019.
How to Raise Your Hemoglobin Count. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-hemoglobin. Accessed January 11, 2019.
Review Date: January 11, 2019 | Last Modified: January 11, 2019