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Importance Of Hemoglobin Test: All You Need To Know

Get a hemoglobin test done…

Check your hemoglobin level…

Is your hemoglobin count normal…

You might have come across such random advice from people around you. But do you know what is a hemoglobin test? Why is it important to get tested for hemoglobin? What do the hemoglobin test results mean? Well, read to find out the answers for some of the common questions on hemoglobin test.

What is hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin is an iron-containing protein present in the red blood cells (RBCs). The characteristic red color of the blood is due to the presence of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is needed for the supply of oxygen to various organs. When you breathe, the hemoglobin in blood carries oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body and helps you to maintain oxygen levels in the blood.

What is a hemoglobin test?

As the name suggests, a hemoglobin test measures the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. This test is also called as Hb test (hemoglobin is abbreviated as Hb) or Hgb test (hemoglobin in blood).

A hemoglobin test may be performed:

-As a part of a routine health check up.

-To screen for the medical conditions that affect red blood cells (RBCs).

-To find out if you have low hemoglobin content.

-To find out if you have high hemoglobin content.

-To monitor response to certain treatment.

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Why should you get a hemoglobin test done?

You need to get your hemoglobin checked if:

-You have symptoms like weakness, dizziness, pale skin, and cold hands and feet.

-Your parents or other immediate family members have had a history of any blood disorder.

-Your diet is very low in iron and mineral content.

-You are suffering from a long-term infection.

-You have suffered excessive blood loss maybe from an injury or any surgical procedure.

-You are pregnant.

What is the sample required for hemoglobin test?

A hemoglobin test will require a blood sample.

How to prepare for the test?

There are no special preparations needed for undergoing a hemoglobin test. The sample collection for hemoglobin test can be done any time of the day and irrespective of the meals.

What happens during a hemoglobin test?

A health care professional will take a blood sample from the vein present in your arm. For babies, usually, the heel is pricked for a blood sample. Once the blood sample is collected, it is sent to a lab for further analysis.

Are there any risks associated with the test?

A hemoglobin test is a simple blood test with no associated health risks. The only thing you might experience is a slight pain or bruising at the site of the needle prick, but you will be relieved very quickly. However, if you have any doubt, do consult your physician to know if you can undergo this test.

What is the normal level of hemoglobin in blood?

The result of a hemoglobin blood test is usually expressed in grams per deciliter (g/dL) of blood. A “normal” hemoglobin range varies from laboratory to laboratory and it may also depend on several factors such as your diet, age, gender, race, and medications you are taking. You may have higher than normal hemoglobin if you live in high altitude areas or if you are a smoker.

Generally, the reference range of hemoglobin in the blood for:

Men are 14–18 g/dL*

Women are 12–16 g/dL*

Infants (0-1 month) are  13.4-19.9 g/dL

Children (1-2 months) are 10.7-17.1 g/dL

Children (2-6 months) are 9.0-14.1 g/dL

Children (6 months-1 year) are 11.3-14.1 g/dL

**Infants have higher hemoglobin levels than adults

What does abnormal hemoglobin test mean?

If you have lower than normal levels of hemoglobin you may be suffering from anemia. It is a condition in which you don’t have enough red blood cells, thus impairing your function.

If you have higher than normal levels of hemoglobin you may be suffering from a condition known as polycythemia. In this condition, you might have an excess of red blood cells in your body.

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How will you know if you have anemia?

A hemoglobin test helps you and your doctor to confirm the diagnosis of anemia. It can be taken up as an individual test or as a part of a complete blood count (CBC) test. Get yourself tested if you have any of the following symptoms of anemia. Some of the common signs and symptoms of anemia include:

-Trouble in breathing

-Feeling tired, weak and dizzy

-Headache

-Feeling cold

-Pale skin

-Inflamed gums

-Hair loss

How will you know if you have polycythemia?

If your doctor suspects polycythemia, he might ask you to get a hemoglobin test to diagnose the condition. You can consult your doctor if you have symptoms of polycythemia such as:

-Feeling itchy

-Having recurring headache

-Abnormal sweating

-Unexpected weight loss

-Feeling dizzy and exhausted

-Having purple or slightly reddish-colored skin

-Getting bruised easily and frequently

-Changes in vision

Note: Remember, whether you have high hemoglobin count or low hemoglobin count, do not panic. Whatever your test results are, get in touch with your doctor. Abnormal test results do not necessarily indicate an underlying medical problem. In some cases, minor changes in the diet would help and you may not need any treatment. Hence, it is important to know the exact cause of low/high hemoglobin count. Always consult your doctor about your test results to get detailed information about your health problem (if any).

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

Simple Tips To Increase Hemoglobin Count At Home

5 Important Medical Tests You Should Get Done Every Year

References:

1. Billett HH. Hemoglobin and Hematocrit. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 151.

2. Nathan, David G. And Oski, Frank A. “Hematology of Infancy and Childhood”, third addition, 1987.

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