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What does a low hemoglobin count mean?

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A low hemoglobin count means that a patient has less of a protein found in red blood cells than what is considered normal in a blood test, according to Mayo Clinic. A low hemoglobin count is a common finding and may not indicate a serious condition.

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Patients who have a slightly below-normal hemoglobin count are not likely to have any symptoms, Mayo Clinic explains. A significantly lower count may indicate that the patient has anemia, or a lack of red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the bloodstream throughout the body.

Although low hemoglobin counts vary slightly from practice to practice, most medical professionals define below normal as 13.5 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter of blood for men, and less than 12 grams per deciliter for women, Mayo Clinic reports. A low-count indicator for children depends on age and gender.

A variety of conditions can lead to a low hemoglobin count, Mayo Clinic states. Blood loss may be at fault. Sometimes the low count is caused by diseases and conditions that either cause the body to produce fewer red blood cells or destroy them faster than they can be produced. Pregnancy and some medications can also produce a lower hemoglobin count.

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