Did you just get a blood test, only to find out that you have low MCHC? The term might seem like gibberish, but don’t ignore it. MCHC says a lot about your blood.
As a type of red blood cell measurement, MCHC stands for mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration. It’s part of a complete blood count (CBC) test. MCHC is the amount of hemoglobin in comparison to the size of a cell, per red blood cell. In short, MCHC measures hemoglobin concentration in a red blood cell.1 And here’s why it matters.
What Is Hemoglobin?
Hemoglobin is a protein that’s found in the red blood cells. Its job is to carry oxygen to major organs and tissue. Without enough of hemoglobin, organs can’t do their thing.2 Think of hemoglobin as a worker at a gas station. It delivers fuel – or oxygen – so that your body can keep plugging along. As you can imagine, low levels aren’t the best news!
Symptoms Of Low MCHC
Since hemoglobin is needed for healthy blood, symptoms of low MCHC are in line with anemia. This is a condition where the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Early symptoms of this might include the following:3
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands and feet
- Pale skin
Low MCHC is diagnosed when results are less than 32 to 36 grams per deciliter. If MCHC is only slightly low, you might have little to no symptoms.4
Causes Of Low MCHC
The most common cause of MCHC is hypochromic microcytic anemia. In this case, red blood cells aren’t just lacking hemoglobin but they’re smaller than normal, too.5 Often, this type of anemia stems from iron deficiency or absorption issues.
In rare cases, lead poisoning is the culprit. Genes can also play a part, especially if thalassemia is passed down. This inherited blood disorder causes the body to make an abnormal form of hemoglobin.6
And then there’s blood loss! Internal bleeding may be caused by cancer or other severe health problems. For ladies, heavy periods might be to blame.
How Is Low MCHC Treated?
Depending on the cause, your doctor will make a game plan for the treatment. Since iron deficiency is the main problem, treatment may involve iron-rich foods and iron supplements. Foods high in folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin C might also be recommended. Folic acid helps make new cells, while vitamin B6 is needed for producing hemoglobin. And vitamin C aids iron absorption.
Sources Of Iron
- Fortified breakfast cereal
- White beans
- Beef liver
- Dark chocolate
- Kidney beans
Sources Of Folic Acid
- Fortified whole wheat bread, pasta, and rice
- Leafy greens
- Black-eyed peas
- Beef liver
Sources Of Vitamin B6
- Poultry, beef, and pork
- Whole grain cereal
- Canned chickpeas9
Sources Of Vitamin C
To prevent low MCHC due to iron deficiency, regularly eat these foods. Also, don’t forget to get a yearly blood test! The earlier you find a problem, the sooner it can be treated.
|↑1, ↑4||RBC Indices. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Hemoglobin Test. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Anemia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑5||Hypochromic Microcytic Anemia With Iron Overload. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑6||Heinrich, H. C. “Iron metabolism in siderosensitive and sideroachrestic anemias. Differential diagnosis of hypochromic microcytic anemia.” Medizinische Klinik 73, no. 39 (1978): 1335.|
|↑7||Iron. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑8||How Is Anemia Treated?. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑9||Vitamin B6. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑10||Vitamin C. University of Maryland Medical Center.|