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Interpreting Results
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Content created by
Written by
Dr. Betina Chandolia
BDS, MDS - Oral Pathology and Microbiology
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Dr. Ashish Ranjan
MBBS, MD (Pharmacology)
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What is Hemoglobin?

The hemoglobin (Hb) test measures the amount of hemoglobin in the blood, an an iron-containing protein which is found in the Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and carries oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues. This test is often done as part of a complete blood count (CBC) to check for anemia, a condition in which your body has fewer red blood cells than normal. Abnormally high or low Hb can cause symptoms like exhaustion and shortness of breath.
In adults, the average hemoglobin level is slightly higher for men than for women. You can increase your hemoglobin level by adding iron rich foods in your diet and by taking iron supplements.

Why is Hb done?

  • To detect anemia

  • To detect Hb levels before and after blood transfusion

  • To monitor the response to treatment of anemia or polycythemia

  • If you have a family history of an inherited blood disorder

  • In case of excessive blood loss from an injury or surgical procedure


What does Hb Measure?

The hemoglobin test measures the amount of hemoglobin in the blood.

Hemoglobin (Hb) is a protein found in red blood cells (RBCs) that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues, and to exchange the oxygen for carbon dioxide. Hemoglobin then carries the carbon dioxide back to the lungs and where it is exchanged for oxygen. Iron is an essential part of hemoglobin. Most blood cells, including red blood cells, are produced regularly in your bone marrow (present within the cavities of many of large bones). To produce hemoglobin and red blood cells, your body needs iron, vitamin B12, folate and other nutrients from the foods you eat.

A decrease in hemoglobin concentration in blood results in anemia. Anemia is a blood disorder characterized by a decrease in the total amount of red blood cells (RBCs) or hemoglobin in the blood or a lowered ability of the blood to carry oxygen to body organs and tissues. Anemia is the most common blood disorder, affecting about a third of the global population and can cause symptoms like tiredness (fatigue), weakness, shortness of breath etc.

The hemoglobin test is usually performed as a part of complete blood count (CBC) test.

Interpreting Hb results


Low hemoglobin levels may be seen in:

  • Different types of anemia

  • Thalassemia

  • Iron deficiency

  • Liver disease

  • Cancer and other diseases


High hemoglobin levels may be seen in:

  • Lung disease

  • Heart disease

  • Polycythemia vera, a disorder in which your body makes too many red blood cells. It can cause headaches, fatigue, and shortness of breath

  • People living in high altitude area

Answers to Patient Concerns & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hb

Frequently Asked Questions about Hemoglobin

Q. When should hemoglobin levels be tested?
Your doctor may suggest a hemoglobin test if you're experiencing weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, or dizziness. This test may help diagnose an underlying medical condition.
Q. Is a hemoglobin test done on an empty stomach?
No, a hemoglobin test does not need to be done on an empty stomach because the Hb levels do not change before or after meals to any meaningful degree.
Q. What is the difference between a hemoglobin test and an HbA1c test?
A hemoglobin test helps detect hemoglobin level in your body, whereas a HbA1c test, also known as the glycosylated hemoglobin test, detects the average level of blood sugar over the last three months.
Q. How is a hemoglobin test performed?
A phlebotomist (a trained professional to perform blood draws) will clean your skin using an antiseptic alcohol cotton swab, and draw blood from your vein using a needle. The blood sample will be stored safely and transported to the laboratory for analysis.
Q. Is there any risk associated with a hemoglobin test?
There is usually no risk associated with this test. However, some people may feel a slight sting while the needle is pricked and may experience some bleeding that is normal and usually not bothersome. Rarely some people may experience slight swelling or bruising at the site of the needle prick. Applying ice 3-4 times a day for about a week may help reduce swelling and bruising. If it does not get better, consult your doctor.
Q. Can my hemoglobin be falsely raised?
High WBC count, high concentrations of lipids or plasma proteins, and increased turbidity may cause a factitiously elevated estimate of Hb
Q. Can a healthy diet help in keeping my hemoglobin levels near normal?
Yes, a well balanced diet can help in keeping the hemoglobin levels normal since iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid are required for normal red cell production.
Q. What are the symptoms of anemia?
Many people having anemia are unaware of it and symptoms can be minor. The symptoms can be related to an underlying cause or the anemia itself. The symptoms of anemia usually include pale skin, weakness, shortness of breath, fainting, palpitations, chest pain and restless legs syndrome. On examination, the signs that were experienced indicated pallor (pale skin, lining mucosa, conjunctiva and nail beds), but this is not a reliable sign.
Q. What are the causes of anemia?
Anemia can be caused by impaired red blood cell (RBC) production, increased RBC destruction (hemolytic anemias), blood loss, and fluid overload (hypervolemia).
Q. What is Iron deficiency anemia?
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. It may occur due to insufficient dietary intake or inadequate absorption of iron in order to meet the body's needs. Infants, toddlers, and pregnant women have higher iron requirements than normal people. The increased iron requirement may also occur due to blood losses, frequent blood donations, or heavy menstrual periods. Worldwide, the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia is a parasitic worm infestation.
Q. What are the additional tests that may be advised in case of an abnormal test result?
Your doctor may order the following tests in case of abnormal results: transferrin, complete blood count, iron studies, serum transferrin, serum iron, total iron binding capacity, protein total, and serum ferritin.
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