The word 'hemoglobin' is made up of two words - 'heme' which means 'deep red colored, non-proteinaceous, iron containing', while 'globin' means 'protein'. In simple words, hemoglobin is the iron-containing metalloprotein present in the red blood cells, which has the function of carrying oxygen from one part of the body to another. Hemoglobin has an oxygen binding capacity of around 1.36 and 1.37ml oxygen per gram of hemoglobin. However, there are certain diseases and conditions which result in low hemoglobin count in the body, leading to anemia. But first, let us take a look at the normal hemoglobin levels in the human body:
- Newborns: 13.5-24 gm/dl
- Children: 11.5-15.5gm/dl
- Adult male: 13.5-17.5gm/dl
- Adult female: 12-15.5gm/dl
- There are a lot of causes of low HB count. One of the most common cause is malnutrition. Nutritional deficiencies directly affect the hemoglobin count, for example, vitamin deficiency, especially deficiency of vitamins B6, B12, and folate. It is also often seen that in pregnancy, women suffer from low hemoglobin, if they are not careful to follow a proper diet, and include adequate folic acid, vitamin, and mineral supplements in it.
- When there is a deficiency of red blood cells, or when the concentrations of hemoglobin are low, a person is said to have anemia. There are many forms of anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is caused due to deficiency of iron in the diet. Insufficient quantity of iron in the diet directly affects the production of hemoglobin, thus, causing a significant glitch in the production process of the hemoglobin molecules. This leads to low hemoglobin levels, as the hemoglobin molecules produced are less in number, and are more often than not faulty in nature as well.
- Any condition where there is excessive bleeding, like bleeding hemorrhoids, bleeding during childbirth, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, heavy bleeding during menstruation, that is, menorrhagia, etc. In all these conditions, there is often acute loss of blood, leading to lowered red blood cell count, which in turn causes low hemoglobin.
- Any kind of hormonal imbalance can lead to a drop in hemoglobin levels. Sometimes, if there is lowered functioning of the thyroid gland, as seen in hypothyroidism, the metabolic rate of the body goes down, and the person feels tired and lethargic. The condition leads to a low hemoglobin count.
- In people who suffer from spleen problems or from pernicious anemia, there may be undue destruction of red blood cells, causing a drop in the red blood cell count, leading to subsequent low hemoglobin levels.
- Chronic diseases, like long term kidney infection resulting in kidney failure, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, etc., also lead to low hemoglobin. Certain intestinal infections and autoimmune diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus, can also cause low hemoglobin. Thalassemia, a genetic disorder, causes low levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells.
- Additionally, there may be certain drugs and medications which can have adverse effects on red blood cells, like chemotherapy drugs, or radiation therapy etc.
- Fatigue and malaise
- Tiredness and weakness
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Inability to perform daily physical activities without getting exhausted
- Shortness of breath and chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Symptoms of severe anemia include pale skin, pale tongue, and nails.
- Hair loss
The treatment will depend on the causal factor of the condition. However, if you want to increase hemoglobin levels, then one of the best ways of doing so is by following a healthy diet, which contains lots of green leafy vegetables. For women who are expecting, it is best to take supplements, like iron and calcium tablets and vitamin supplements, to ensure that they do not develop any kind of deficiency, as this may directly affect not only their health but their child's health as well. People suffering from iron deficiency anemia should take iron tablets to increase their hemoglobin levels. However, it is best to consult a doctor to check for the presence of any other underlying disease.
Thus, low hemoglobin, though not necessarily an alarming or life-threatening condition, needs to be taken seriously to prevent any complications in the future. It is imperative that once a person shows the above symptoms of low hemoglobin, he should get the condition diagnosed and treated at the earliest.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.