What Is the MCH Blood Test?


MCH stands for “mean corpuscular hemoglobin.”  It is a test included in the Complete Blood Count (CBC) panel. Hemoglobin is a protein found in all red blood cells which helps our bodies circulate oxygen. MCH levels indicate the average level of hemoglobin in each of an individual’s red blood cells. “Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration” (MCHC) measures the amount of hemoglobin in a red cell while considering its volume. In other words, MCHC measures the average oxygen-carrying capacity of an individual’s red blood cells circulating their body. Too high or low MCHC levels can indicate health conditions such as anemia, characterized by dysfunctional red blood cells. You may consider taking a CBC Test, a Complete Blood Count Panel or a CBC blood test, to identify such issues. Your doctor may order this test for several reasons: to evaluate overall health, to help monitor or diagnose diseases, or to observe the effectiveness of certain treatments. This test will measure a patient’s MCH levels and white blood cell count, and red blood cell count while taking inventory of the many cellular components within their plasma. Maintaining a healthy balance of these components is vital to ensure oxygen is carried to our organs; we can fight off infections and make sure our blood clots properly.

What If My MCHC Blood Test Is Low?

A low mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration indicates someone does not have enough hemoglobin in their red blood cells. The body requires iron to produce hemoglobin, and a lack of hemoglobin could be indicative of anemia. The MCHC value is used to determine the cause and severity of the anemia. While anemia can be caused by normal conditions like pregnancy, iron deficiency, or blood loss, in rare cases it can be caused by life-threatening illnesses such as cancer or parasitic infection. The inability to absorb iron could also cause someone to have irregularly high MCH values. Some patients may have an inherited blood disorder known as thalassemia, in which their bodies contain fewer red blood cells and less hemoglobin. A number of genetic conditions could also lead to lowered MCH levels. Individuals who develop iron deficiency anemia may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Persistent fatigue or tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Pale or yellow skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Easy bruising

While many mild cases of anemia may go unnoticed, more severe, ongoing cases could result in life-threatening complications. If MCH values are too low, your body might be unable to provide the necessary amount of oxygen to all its tissues and lose the ability to void itself of excess carbon dioxide. This condition, known as anemic hypoxia, could be life-threatening. If this is the case it is imperative to take a CBC Test to get to the root of the problem. Common symptoms of anemic hypoxia include:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Loss of breath or rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Wheezing or coughing

What if I Have a High MCHC Blood Test Result?

High MCH values can also be caused by anemia due to a lack of vitamin B-12 and folate. The body requires both of these vitamins to make red blood cells. Symptoms of anemia due to B-12 and folate deficiency can be:

  • Feeling pins and needles in the hands or feet
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bloating or gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Sensitive tongue
  • Depression or confusion

Pre-existing genetic conditions or severe burns could also cause abnormally high MCH values.

How Are High or Low MCHC Test Results Diagnosed?

To evaluate whether red blood cells are carrying the appropriate amount of hemoglobin, a blood test is necessary to perform. A medical professional will draw a sample undergoing a Complete Blood Count Test. Healthy MCHC levels typically range between 32 and 36 g/dL (grams per deciliter). Unless otherwise instructed by a medical professional, no fasting or special preparation is needed to perform the test.

How Is Low or High MCH Treated?

High levels of MCH can usually be treated with lifestyle changes, such as introducing folate-rich foods into one’s diet. In more serious cases your doctor may recommend taking B-12 supplements or even injections to ensure a healthy MCHC.

Low levels of MCH can also typically be treated by making diet changes or taking supplements containing iron. It is also recommended to ensure you are consuming enough vitamin B-6 and fiber, which help the body absorb iron. Make sure also to limit calcium consumption, as too much of it can prevent your body from absorbing iron. In some cases, where symptoms are more severe, it may be required that the patent receives a blood transfusion.





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