Q:

Can a low red blood cell count cause low blood oxygen levels?

A:

Quick Answer

Oxygen attaches to hemoglobin in the blood that carries it to other tissues, so when the red blood cell count is low, the blood oxygen levels also drop. When a person does not have enough healthy red blood cells, he is anemic, according to MedlinePlus.

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Full Answer

Production of red blood cells requires nutrients, vitamins and minerals. When the body is low on vitamin B-12, folic acid or iron, MedlinePlus indicates it is unable to produce enough new red blood cells to replace those that die daily, resulting in anemia. Other causes of anemia include loss of blood and the body destroying its own red blood cells.

Some initial signs of anemia include irritability, headaches, problems with concentration and feeling weak, reports MedlinePlus. If the anemia continues, the whites of the eyes take on a blue color, the skin becomes pale, and the patient begins to experience shortness of breath as the body attempts to compensate for the low blood oxygen levels. With severe anemia, the blood oxygen levels drop so low they have the potential to induce a heart attack.

Medical treatment for anemia-induced low blood oxygen levels includes addressing the underlying cause. Some patients need supplements of iron, vitamin B-12, and other nutrients the body requires for manufacturing more red blood cells. Transfusions help to increase the red blood cell count immediately. Patients may also benefit from medication that stimulates red blood cell production, according to MedlinePlus.

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