Haemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to body cells. It plays a critical role as oxygen is needed for cells to repair and maintain itself. Haemoglobin is also responsible for maintaining the shape of red blood cells, which resembles a donut with a biconcave centre. This enables them to fold and flex to flow through blood vessels easily.
The amount of haemoglobin in one’s body varies from person to person. But when haemoglobin levels dip significantly, it could signal a health concern. Here is what you need to know about low haemoglobin levels in your body!
Low haemoglobin levels
A slightly low haemoglobin level may not necessarily be a sign for a serious health condition. In certain cases, especially women with menstrual cycles and pregnant women, this can be normal. However, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor if you have persisting signs and symptoms of a low haemoglobin count.
Low haemoglobin levels often indicate that a patient has anaemia, a blood disorder. There are a few different types of anaemia. Some only cause mild health problems, while others can be much more severe. Some causes of anaemia are:
- The body’s inability to produce enough haemoglobin
- Impaired functions of haemoglobin
- Blood loss from your body
- Shortened lifespan of red blood cells
Low haemoglobin levels can be caused by any condition or disease that affects the body’s ability to produce red blood cells or decrease the number of red blood cells in the bloodstream. Some health conditions that may contribute to low haemoglobin levels include:
- Lack of iron: The lack of iron in your body makes it harder for your bone marrow to produce haemoglobin. This could result from blood loss, an iron-poor diet, or an increase in the body’s need for iron such as women during pregnancy.
- Nutritional deficiency: Vitamins that are linked to vitamin deficiency anaemia include folate, vitamin B-12, and vitamin C. This can be treated with some vitamin supplements and adjustments to your diet.
- Loss of blood: The loss of blood could be caused by an injury, surgery, or bleeding in your digestive tract such as from ulcers, cancers, or haemorrhoids.
- Blood cancer: Blood cancer is one of the common cancers linked to anaemia. This is because blood cancer affects how the body produces and uses red blood cells.
- Thalassemia: Thalassemia is an inherited condition that causes individuals to have lower levels of haemoglobin than normal. This could cause the person to be easily fatigued. Extreme cases may require blood transfusions to upkeep healthy levels of haemoglobin in the body.
As there are many causes for anaemia, the symptoms vary widely. Some of the common symptoms experienced include:
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
- Abnormal or rapid heartbeat
Doctors might recommend patients a complete blood count test to determine whether you have low haemoglobin level. If the test shows that you have a low haemoglobin count, you will likely need further tests to determine the cause. The sooner you notice the symptoms of low haemoglobin levels and have the cause diagnosed, the more likely you will have successful treatment.