You might hear your doctor talk about MCH blood tests or MCH levels when they explain the results of certain blood tests and have wondered what he/she meant by MCH.

Quick Facts About MCH Blood Test

AB
Test NameMean Corpuscular Hemoglobin (MCH)
PurposeTo measure the average amount of hemoglobin in the red blood cells
SignificanceHelps diagnose and monitor blood disorders like anemia
MeasurementReported in picograms (pg) per red blood cell (RBC)
Normal RangeTypically 27 to 33 picograms per red blood cell (pg/RBC)
Low MCH (Microcytic)Indicates iron deficiency anemia, thalassemia, or other health issues
High MCH (Macrocytic)May suggest vitamin deficiency or certain types of anemia
Associated TestsUsually part of a Complete Blood Count (CBC) panel
CalculationDividing the total amount of hemoglobin by the number of red blood cells
Sample CollectionBlood sample is collected from a vein in the arm using a needle and a syringe or through finger prick
InterpretationMCH levels are interpreted in conjunction with other blood indices such as MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) and MCHC (Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration) to diagnose various types of anemia and other blood disorders
Additional ConsiderationsMCH levels can be affected by factors such as age, gender, altitude, smoking, pregnancy, and certain medications

Doctors regularly order blood tests1Jaeger, J. J., & Hedegaard, H. (2001, February 4). About blood tests to get an idea of the overall health of their patients, and one of the things they check for is levels of MCH, or mean corpuscular hemoglobin – MCH blood test2National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Blood tests..

These MCH levels are regularly used to help diagnose blood disorders3University of Rochester Medical Center. Overview of blood and blood components. but can be difficult to understand. Different MCH levels may cause a variety of symptoms, which will require individual treatments.

Today’s article aims to tell you everything about the MCH blood test. It also explains what may cause MCH blood test levels that are higher or lower than normal. Read on.

 

MCH Blood Test – What is MCH About?

Mch Blod Test - Healthsoothe

 

MCH stands for mean corpuscular hemoglobin. MCH levels refer to the average amount of hemoglobin found in the red blood cells in the body. Hemoglobin is a protein in the blood that allows red blood cells to deliver oxygen to the cells and tissues in the body. 

It’s possible you’ll learn about MCH when you get a blood test called a CBC (complete blood count). This test measures different parts of your blood, including red blood cells and white blood cells. Doctors use information from the CBC to calculate your MCH.

A similar measure to MCH is something doctors call “mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration” (MCHC). MCHC checks the average amount of hemoglobin in a group of red blood cells.

Your doctor may use both measurements to help in a diagnosis of anemia. It’s a condition caused by not having enough healthy red blood cells, or the red blood cells you do have don’t work as well as they should. Anemia can make you feel extremely tired.

Though they are very similar, MCH levels should not be confused with MCHC levels. MCH levels are the average amount of hemoglobin that is in each red blood cell.

MCHC levels are the average weight of that hemoglobin based on the volume of red blood cells. Both are a reflection of the health of the hemoglobin in the blood.

 Watch the video below to know about MCH blood test:

How Do You Get an MCH Test? – Getting a Complete Blood Count (CBC) Test

Mch Blod Test: Cbc Test - Healthsoothe

A CBC test measures the different cells that make up your blood, including your:

  • Red blood cells
  • White blood cells, which fight infection
  • Hemoglobin
  • Platelets, which help your blood clot

You may have a CBC test as part of your yearly physical exam or to check for disease. Your doctor might give you this test if you have symptoms of a condition that affects your blood cell count.

To do a CBC test, a nurse puts a needle into a vein in your arm. The needle attaches to a test tube, where the blood collects. A lab then analyzes the blood sample. A complete blood count test, or simply a CBC test, is designed to give doctors a general overview of a person’s health4Complete blood count (CBC). (n.d.).

The test can help screen people for a variety of issues at once and may help diagnose conditions, such as bleeding disorders, infections, and anemia. Regular health screenings will often include a CBC test.

If the results come back normal, the person may not need another test until their next health screening. Doctors may order CBC tests if a person shows signs of any disorder that can affect the blood.

A CBC test can also be used to help monitor individuals who have blood disorders. Doctors will use them to track the progress of a treatment and determine how effective it is.

CBC tests examine all three types of cells in the blood. The test will give a total white, red, and platelet cell count. CBC tests examine all three types of cells in the blood and will show the total number of white cells, red cells, and platelets in the blood5 Cleveland Clinic. Complete blood count: Test details..

 

MCH Levels

Doctors will often order a CBC test to find out a person’s MCH levels. Normal MCH levels are around 27 to 33 picograms (pg) per cell in adults. These numbers may vary based on the machine used to carry out the test.

The numbers are different in young children. A person with a low MCH has concentrations at or below 26 pg per cell. A person with high MCH levels will have concentrations at 34 pg per cell or more.

You can watch the video below to know more about MCH levels – MCH blood test

Low MCH Levels

Registering an MCH level below 27 picograms/cell is most commonly associated with anemia. It could also be a sign of:

  • An autoimmune disease
  • Cancer
  • Deficiency of certain nutrients, such as vitamin B12 or folic acid
  • Internal or external blood loss, often resulting from surgery, injury, or menstrual bleeding
  • Iron deficiency, almost always caused by blood loss
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Thalassemia, a common, inherited blood disorder caused by genetic mutations in the hemoglobin genes

Symptoms of Low MCH levels

A loss of regular stamina and tiredness may be symptoms of low MCH levels.

At first, many people with low MCH levels do not experience symptoms at all. When low MCH numbers persist or fall too low, symptoms start to appear. Symptoms of low MCH include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Loss of regular stamina
  • Consistent tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness in the body

Low MCH numbers can also affect the skin. The skin may become pale or bruise very easily in someone with low MCH levels. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact their doctor immediately.

Causes of Low MCH levels

Different types of anemia can cause low MCH levels. For example, microcytic anemia occurs when the blood cells are too small and cannot take in as much hemoglobin as they should. This can be due to malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies.

Some medical conditions can also cause anemia, even if the person eats a balanced and healthful diet. Low amounts of iron in the blood can also cause low MCH levels. The body uses iron to make hemoglobin.

If the body runs out of iron, iron deficiency anemia can cause low MCH levels. This type of anemia may be more common in vegetarians or people with poor nutritional intake.

People with other conditions may also experience low MCH levels. Celiac disease can prevent the body from properly absorbing iron, which makes it very difficult to keep the iron levels where they need to be.

Likewise, people who have had types of gastric surgery may also not be able to absorb iron as well as they need to. Women with excessive menstruation may also become anemic, as they lose more iron in the menstrual blood than they can recover.

Low MCH levels can also appear in a body that is lacking key vitamins. People who do not get enough B vitamins such as folate and B12 may show low MCH concentrations on their tests.

Because a lack of vitamins can also show high MCH levels, doctors may request further lab testing and interpretation to make a definitive diagnosis.

 

High MCH Levels

Having an MCH level above 31 picograms/cell is most commonly associated with the following conditions:

  • Certain types of kidney diseases, including kidney cancer
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Lung disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis4
  • Polycythemia vera, a rare blood disease typically caused by a genetic mutation where the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells

Symptoms of High MCH Levels

People experiencing a high MCH caused by macrocytic anemia may experience symptoms that follow a particular pattern. People may not notice symptoms at first, but they can gradually get worse over time. Symptoms of high MCH include:

  • Itching
  • Tiredness
  • Very pale skin
  • Headaches
  • Blood clots
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Nails that are brittle and easily broken
  • Brain fog or poor concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Confusion and memory loss

People with macrocytic anemia may also experience digestive issues. They may not have an appetite, lose weight, and have regular diarrhea. A person experiencing any of these symptoms should talk to their doctor as soon as possible.

Causes of High MCH Levels

High MCH scores are commonly a sign of macrocytic anemia6Kannan, A., Tilak, V., Rai, M., & Gupta, V. (2016, July). Evaluation of clinical, biochemical and hematological parameters in macrocytic anemia. International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 4(7), 2670-2678 . This condition occurs when the blood cells are too big, which can be a result of not having enough vitamin B12 or folic acid in the body.

High MCH scores may also be the result of the following:

  • Liver diseases
  • An overactive thyroid gland
  • Drinking alcohol regularly
  • Complications from certain cancers
  • Complications from an infection
  • Taking too many medications containing estrogen

 

How Do You Treat MCH Imbalances (Low and High MCH)?

Which treatment you need depends on the condition that raised or lowered your MCH level.

If you have anemia, supplements can replace what your body lacks7Johnson-Wimbley, T. D. & Graham, D. Y. (2011, May). Diagnosis and management of iron deficiency anemia in the 21st century. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. You may also need treatment for the condition that caused your anemia. For example, if the cause is blood loss, birth control pills lessen heavy bleeding during periods. If you have a bleeding polyp or tumor, you may need surgery to remove it.

If your body doesn’t have enough vitamin B12 or folate, your treatment will be to get more of these vitamins. They’re in foods like fish, liver, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals. If you’re a vegetarian or you don’t eat enough foods that have vitamin B12, you can take supplements or get regular B12 shots from your doctor.

If your MCH levels appear to be higher or lower than normal, your healthcare provider will do additional testing to determine the cause. The treatment options will depend on the cause.

Keep in mind that there are many reasons why MCH levels fall outside the normal range, and it may not indicate a health condition. It could be a side effect of a medication. It could even be because you live in a high-altitude region. Follow-up tests can help rule out any health conditions and provide reassurance.

 

The Summary

It’s possible you’ll learn about MCH when you get a blood test called a CBC (complete blood count). This test measures different parts of your blood, including red blood cells and white blood cells. Doctors use information from the CBC to calculate your MCH.

A similar measure to MCH is something doctors call “mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration” (MCHC). MCHC checks the average amount of hemoglobin in a group of red blood cells.

Your doctor may use both measurements to help in a diagnosis of anemia. It’s a condition caused by not having enough healthy red blood cells, or the red blood cells you do have don’t work as well as they should. Anemia can make you feel extremely tired.

Though they are very similar, MCH levels should not be confused with MCHC levels. MCH levels are the average amount of hemoglobin that is in each red blood cell.

MCHC levels are the average weight of that hemoglobin based on the volume of red blood cells. Both are a reflection of the health of the hemoglobin in the blood.

Most people can improve their MCH levels by making changes to their diet. Iron injections may be necessary for people with disorders that prevent iron absorption. Other people may require regular transfusions with iron-rich blood.

People should be open with their doctor about what they eat and drink during the testing process to make diagnosis and treatment as smooth as possible.

If your MCH levels appear to be higher or lower than normal, your healthcare provider will do additional testing to determine the cause. The treatment options will depend on the cause.

Keep in mind that there are many reasons why MCH levels fall outside the normal range, and it may not indicate a health condition. It could be a side effect from a medication. It could even be because you live in a high-altitude region. Follow-up tests can help rule out any health conditions and provide reassurance.

MCH levels represent only one piece of what you might call the “healthcare puzzle.” Other factors, including family history and lifestyle, also provide crucial information about your overall health and the likelihood of having a particular condition. Uncovering this information requires that you be honest and open with your healthcare provider. Doing so can put your MCH levels into clearer focus.

You can always check our FAQs section below to know more about the MCH blood test

 

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Additional resources and citations

  • 1
    Jaeger, J. J., & Hedegaard, H. (2001, February 4). About blood tests
  • 2
    National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Blood tests.
  • 3
    University of Rochester Medical Center. Overview of blood and blood components.
  • 4
    Complete blood count (CBC). (n.d.)
  • 5
    Cleveland Clinic. Complete blood count: Test details.
  • 6
    Kannan, A., Tilak, V., Rai, M., & Gupta, V. (2016, July). Evaluation of clinical, biochemical and hematological parameters in macrocytic anemia. International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 4(7), 2670-2678
  • 7
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The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional treatment or diagnosis. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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