Hemoglobin is present in your red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to different cells in the body. Four interconnected protein molecules make the structure of hemoglobin. The normal level of hemoglobin in your blood is 12 to 15 grams per deciliter for women, and the range for men is 14 to 17 grams per deciliter. In cases of a low hemoglobin count, the level of hemoglobin decreases significantly. It is also known as anemia. Anemia is a common disorder, and it is found mostly in women because of menstruation and childbirth. In anemia, the blood lacks iron and hemoglobin.
Causes of Low Hemoglobin Count
A low hemoglobin count can be linked to a disease/condition that causes the body to have too low red blood cells. This can happen if
- You have blood loss
- Your body produces lesser amount of red blood cells than usual
- Your body destroys the red blood cells quicker than they can be made
Diseases and conditions which cause your body to produce lesser red blood cells than normal include
Some medicines like chemotherapy drugs for cancer and antiretroviral drugs for HIV infection including other conditions
- Vitamin deficiency anemia
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s disease)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Lead poisoning
- Chronic kidney disease
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Diseases and conditions that may cause your body to destroy the red blood cells quicker than they can be produced include
blood loss is also a reason for low hemoglobin count, which can be due to
- Frequent blood donation
- Bleeding in the digestive tract like from ulcers, cancers or hemorrhoids
- Heavy menstrual bleeding (Menorrhagia): Heavy menstrual bleeding, although even a normal menstrual bleeding can cause a slightly low hemoglobin count
A person with low hemoglobin in blood is said to be anemic, and he/she suffers from anemia. Depending on their severity, there are different types of anemia. While some are mild, some can be more severe. A person with anemia lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the tissues of the body. Anemia can make you feel tired and weak.
Consult a doctor if you are doubtful that you have anemia. It could be a warning sign of serious sickness.
Types of Anemia include
- Iron deficiency anemia: Considered the most common type of anemia, iron deficiency anemia, as the name suggests, is caused by the shortage of iron in our body. Our bone marrow needs iron to make hemoglobin and without adequate iron, our body cannot produce enough hemoglobin for red blood cells.
- Aplastic anemia: It is a life-threatening form of anemia caused by bone marrow failure. In aplastic anemia, the blood lacks Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells, and platelets.
- Pernicious anemia: It is because of vitamin B12 deficiency. It is seen in people who have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12.
- Genetic anemia: Genetic anemia has long-term effects on the body, and its treatment takes time. Hereditary disorders can also cause anemia, like sickle cell anemia, alpha thalassemia, and beta thalassemia.
- Hemolytic anemia: is a disorder where the body destroys the RBCs before more can be produced.
- Autoimmune anemia: It occurs due to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. In such cases, the doctor prescribes an immunosuppressive drug.
Symptoms of Low Hemoglobin
The symptoms of low hemoglobin are quite common. They are:
- Pain in body
- Pale skin and gums
- Frequent headaches
- Constantly feeling tired
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling feverish
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty in breathing
Low hemoglobin can be diagnosed using a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test. There are six major components in a complete blood count test – Platelet count, Red Blood Cells (RBC) count, White Blood Cells count (WBC), Hemoglobin, Hematocrit, and Differential Blood Count. Out of these six, three are important for detecting anemia . They are Red Blood Cells, i.e., the RBC count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit. It tells doctors about the amount of hemoglobin present in the blood. The doctor may also ask you to undergo other blood tests, depending on the anemia type, like a chest X-ray, MRI, general ultrasound, CT scan of the pelvis and abdominal region, etc.
The treatment for low hemoglobin depends on its cause. If the cause of low hemoglobin is poor appetite, the doctor might suggest some changes in the diet and will ask you to switch to a more iron-rich diet. In mild cases of anemia, doctors suggest oral iron supplements and iron injections. In case of severe anemia, your doctor may suggest transfusing red blood cells and taking erythropoietin. Erythropoietin is a hormone that increases red blood cell production. Along with the doctor’s prescribed medication, you must also try to exercise regularly, avoid smoking and alcohol, refrain from consuming excessive caffeine, eat green leafy vegetables, and drink sufficient water for a quick recovery.
Certain food items are rich in iron. This makes them the best choice for curing low hemoglobin counts. Here is the list of foods you must include in your diet.
- Green vegetables like spinach and lettuce.
- Brown rice.
- Kidney beans.
- Black-eyed peas.
You can increase the iron absorption capacity of your body by eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as:
- Citrus fruits like lemon and oranges.
- Leafy vegetables.
- Fish liver.
Your diet must include vitamin A and beta-carotene as well. Foods like mangoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes also help in iron absorption. Apollo Hospitals offer expert guidance and provide the most reliable treatment for low hemoglobin.
One of the main reasons for low hemoglobin is poor diet. You must eat well, drink sufficient water, and take iron supplements.
In a nutshell, a low hemoglobin level adversely affects your health. It makes you lethargic, weak, etc. Iron is the major component of blood, and it is essential for its functioning. Low hemoglobin is followed by a low red blood cell count and a low hematocrit. You can manage your low hemoglobin in various ways.
A person with anemia must rest between physical activities and avoid performing activities that require extreme physical strength to save energy. Plan your day to be more productive, avoid drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks, ensure adequate sleep, eat a balanced diet rich in iron, avoid being stressed, etc. In most cases, doctors suggest a blood test to confirm anemia and its type. Anemia is mostly a curable disease. However, in severe cases, it can be life-threatening, or it requires a long period of treatment. You must not lose hope and take good care of yourself.