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Are high hemoglobin levels dangerous?

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Quick Answer

An elevated hemoglobin count may impair circulation and disrupt the adequate delivery of oxygen to the tissues, possibly leading to peripheral cyanosis and impaired mental function due to poor cerebral circulation, according to SteadyHealth. Elevated hemoglobin also increases the risk of thrombo-embolism, a type of blood clot.

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Full Answer

Treatment for elevated hemoglobin begins with the identification and treatment of the root cause, as stated by SteadyHealth. Causes include living at high altitudes, dehydration, smoking, pulmonary fibrosis, congenital heart disease and the use of anabolic steroids. Cor pulmonale and the rare bone marrow disease polycythemia vera may also cause an elevated hemoglobin count. Contracted plasma volume and the excess production of red blood cells are the two primary mechanisms that cause elevated hemoglobin.

A hemoglobin test is one of the most commonly performed blood tests and is normally part of a complete blood count, as confirmed by SteadyHealth. A doctor may order the test if the patient is pregnant, experiences unexplained weight loss, has signs of bleeding, has feelings of fatigue or has a chronic medical problem such as kidney disease, claims MedlinePlus. A hemoglobin test may also be ordered before or after surgery and to monitor amenia or cancer treatment. Patients may feel a slight prick to moderate pain while the blood is being drawn followed by a bruise or throbbing sensation that soon disappears.

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