Dangerously low hemoglobin levels
Hemoglobin is a protein inside the red blood cells (RBC) that carries oxygen in our body. A hemoglobin test shows how much hemoglobin is in a person’s blood. This information can be used to help the physician diagnose and monitor anemia (a low hemoglobin level) and polycythemia vera (a high hemoglobin level).
Hemoglobin is a complex protein made up of four subunits. Each subunit contains a protein, or polypeptide chain, which incorporates a heme group. Each heme contains iron (Fe2 +) which can bind one molecule of oxygen. Iron gives blood its red color. After the first year of life, 95–97% of the hemoglobin molecules have two pairs of polypeptide chains named alpha and beta. This form of hemoglobin is called hemoglobin a.
Hemoglobin is most commonly measured in whole blood. Hemoglobin testing is often done as part of a complete blood count (CBC), a test that involves counting red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets (thrombocytes).
Some people inherit hemoglobin with an unusual structure. Abnormal hemoglobin occurs as a result of a point mutation in one or both genes that code for alpha or beta polypeptide chains. Examples of hemoglobin abnormalities resulting from single amino acid substitutions in the beta chain are sickle cell and hemoglobin C disease. The most unusual hemoglobin molecules can be detected by hemoglobin electrophoresis, which separates hemoglobin molecules that have different electric charges.
Normal hemoglobin level vary with age and sex, with women generally having lower hemoglobin values than men. Common results for males range from 13–18 g / dL. The normal range for women is 12–16 g / dL. Significant limits (panic values) for both men and women are below 20.0 g / dL or above 20.0 g / dL.
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A low hemoglobin value usually indicates that the person has anemia. Various tests are done to find the cause and type of anemia. Dangerously low hemoglobin levels pose a person at risk of heart attack, heart failure or stroke. A high hemoglobin value indicates that the body can make many red blood cells. Other tests are performed to isolate the cause of abnormal hemoglobin levels. Severely high or low levels should be called immediately to the attention of the patient’s physician.
Some causes of low hemoglobin level
Other, less common causes of lower than normal hemoglobin levels may include any of the following:
- Endurance exercise: Researchers have found that endurance training can affect hemoglobin levels and hematocrit. Interestingly, mixed training or just strength training does not affect RBC indices.
- Gastric bypass surgery: The journal Hepato-Gastroenterology reported that gastric surgery can affect nutrient absorption. In time, iron deficiency in the body may decrease hemoglobin levels and may be possible signs of anemia.
- Liver disease: Annals of gastroenterology reported that advanced liver disease can cause anemia because liver disease inhibits iron absorption.
- Cancer: Various types of cancer can destroy red blood cells and lead to dangerously low hemoglobin levels. In addition, if the cancer affects internal organs such as the pancreas, liver or kidneys, it can cause anemia due to low iron levels.
Some people show signs of hemoglobin levels that are dangerously low. Due to low hemoglobin that can put your life at risk, they can be caused by a severe lack of blood, RBCs are destroyed very quickly, or there can be major problems in your organs.
The Journal Critical Care reports that severely low levels of hemoglobin are usually classified as below 8 g / dL or below 8.5 g / dL.
When hemoglobin levels are so low, doctors may have to increase hemoglobin levels by discontinuing surgery. In severe cases, doctors may have to order a blood transfusion to increase hemoglobin levels.
According to US News, dangerously low hemoglobin levels that require transfusions are 7 grams per dl for ICU patients and 8 mg per dl for most other patients. According to the Mayo Clinic, low hemoglobin is less than 13.5 grams per dl for men and 12 grams per dl for women.
Patients who have hemoglobin levels of 9 to 10 grams per dl and receive transfusion are no better than those who receive transfusion at 7 to 8 g per dl. According to the Mayo Clinic, hemoglobin levels just below normal levels are not a cause for concern in general. Sometimes low hemoglobin levels are due to illness or a serious medical condition, known as anemia.