Hemoglobin levels and its significance

Sometimes extreme tiredness and fatigue not attributable to any specific illness can be seen in individuals who are iron deficient. Even in children, loss of concentration or low stamina can be attributed to low hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin

 

As soon as we visit the physician with high fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, etc, the first test ordered is a CBC or Complete Blood count. The different components in blood reflect what is going on inside the body, especially with respect to our defense mechanism.

Within the CBC, hemoglobin test is always there and holds special significance. Low hemoglobin levels may be a result of varied conditions such as:

  • Fatigue, feelings of poor health, or unexplained weight loss
  • Bleeding as in injury, menstrual blood loss in women, etc
  • Loss of blood due to surgical procedure
  • Pregnancy
  • Presence of chronic kidney disease or many other chronic medical problems
  • Anemia
  • Cancer

Role of hemoglobin

Hemoglobin is a carrier for oxygen from the lungs to the various tissues and carbon dioxide from other parts of the body to lungs. About 70% of the body’s iron is present in the red blood cells in the form of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an iron-protein complex which gives red blood cells its red colour.

Measuring hemoglobin means measuring the sufficiency of iron in blood. Due to its vital role as an oxygen carrier, maintenance of normal hemoglobin levels is of utmost importance.

What is normal

Normal results for adults vary, but in general are:

  • Male: 13.8 to 17.2 g/dL
  • Female: 12.1 to 15.1 g/dL

Normal results for children vary, but in general are:

  • Newborn: 14 to 24 g/dL
  • Infant: 9.5 to 13 g/dL

Usually cut-off values are slightly different depending upon the laboratory and testing method.

Often, low hemoglobin levels are indicative of anemia. Although, there are different types of anemia , the more common one is iron deficiency anemia

So, as the name suggests, when iron stores in the body get depleted to a large extent it results in iron deficiency anemia. When iron is in short supply hemoglobin is not formed and hence the  red blood cell count decreases. The treatment for low hemoglobin / anemia includes increasing intake of iron rich foods. Once iron status is restored, hemoglobin levels also return to normal.

Hemoglobin plays the important role of carrying oxygen to the tissues and hence a lack of oxygen supply can definitely compromise functioning and lead to fatigue and tiredness. Although a very basic test, its significance should not be underestimated. Hemoglobin levels should be tested at frequent intervals for all age groups starting with infants.

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