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What does it mean if MCV and MCH are low in a blood test?

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Quick Answer

A low MCV, or mean corpuscular volume, indicates that red blood cells are smaller than normal, while a low MCH, or mean corpuscular hemoglobin, indicates that the hemoglobin in red blood cells is less than normal, states WebMD. These measurements help diagnose different types of anemia.

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Full Answer

A person with a low MCV has microcytic anemia, explains MedlinePlus. A low MCH indicates hypochromic anemia.

Iron deficiency is a common cause of both microcytic and hypochromic anemia. Iron deficiency might be caused by blood loss from menstrual bleeding, cancer or ulcers; the body's inability to absorb iron; a lack of iron in the diet; or the body's increased need for iron due to pregnancy, states MedlinePlus. Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include feelings of tiredness and weakness, poor concentration, pale skin, lightheadedness and brittle nails. The condition is treated with iron supplements and by increasing iron-rich foods such as turkey, fish and spinach in the diet.

Other potential causes of microcytic and hypochromic anemia include lead poisoning, inflammation and thalassemia, advises MedlinePlus. Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder in which the person's body does not make enough hemoglobin, states the CDC.

Both of these tests are completed as a part of a CBC, or complete blood count test. The normal MCV range for adults is 84 to 96 femtoliters, and the normal MCH range is 28 to 34 picograms per cell, states WebMD.

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