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Have you ever closely looks at your blood test report? If yes, then you may find an MCH blood test value. Surprisingly, this single blood test can reveal many conditions related to hemoglobin.

So, if you are interested to learn more, then stick with us till the end. And in the end, you get to know what MCH blood test is, CBC blood test, MCH levels- low and high, its causes, symptoms, and treatment along with a general FAQ.

Let’s start with a short introduction to the MCH blood test.

What is the MCH Blood Test?

What is the MCH Blood Test?

MCH (Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin) is a blood test that signifies the average amount of hemoglobin in the given blood sample. Therefore, it is a test for hemoglobin— a protein that makes the blood red. Additionally, it acts as a carrier for oxygen transportation to other parts of the body.

There are a few other tests that are analogous to hemoglobin. These are MAHC and MCV. The MCH could seem similar, but they are not. Let’s discuss them one by one.

MCHC Blood Test

MCHC (Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration) is a standard test to evaluate the severity of diseases like anemia. It refers to the concentration of hemoglobin per unit (volume) in a single red blood cell.

MCV Blood Test

MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) is also a blood test that can be used to determine the average size of red blood cells.

In all the hemoglobin blood test, whether it is MCH or MCHC, the most important and governing factor is CBC (Complete Blood Count). So, let’s have a short look at CBC.

What is CBC Blood Test?

CBC refers to all blood tests which are generally used to evaluate the count number of various components of blood. In this test, blood-forming cells are measured.

CBC mainly comprises three types of cells counts. These are:

  • Red Blood Cells (RBCs)
  • White Blood Cells (WBCs)
  • Platelets in the blood

Through this test, the doctor obtained information about a number of conditions that a patient of suffering including anemia, infection, leukemia, malaria, etc. Strictly speaking, CBC is a test to determines whether there is an increase or decrease in blood cell count.

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Various MCH Blood Levels

The normal range for MCH in humans is between 27.5 and 33.2 picograms (pg). In addition, MCH numbers in women may be lower than men. This is because, women lose blood when they have a period.

Medically, there are two MCH levels that state different conditions and diseases. These are

  • Low MCH Levels
  • High MCH Levels

Low MCH Blood Levels

Low MCH Blood Levels

When the calculated MCH value is less than 27.5 pg, then it is a condition of a low level of hemoglobin per red blood cell.

Causes of Low MCH Levels

Usually, it indicates low levels of iron in the body which is a condition called anemia. The dietary iron, as we know, is important for the production of hemoglobin. Therefore, it is a clear indication of a low iron diet, major surgery, blood loss during the period, or some traumatic events.

Other Causes of Low MCH Levels:

  • Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Blood loss in other condition
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Pregnancy

In addition, low MCH levels may be due to a genetic condition called thalassemia. In this condition, the body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells to the bloodstream, which means that the production of hemoglobin is limited.

Symptoms of Low MCH levels

Low MCH levels make your body fatigued. This is because there are not enough RBCs that could carry oxygen. This could also generate the conditions of iron deficiency— Anemia.

However, these are the common symptoms of low MCH blood levels:

  • Weakness, dizziness, and tiredness— common
  • Pale-yellow skin
  • Trouble/Shortness in breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Hair loss
  • Abnormal heartbeats
  • Soreness or smoothness
  • Frequent cramps in lower limbs
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Difficulty in  focusing

Treatment for Low MCH Levels

Treatment for Low MCH Levels

Generally, treatment for low MCH blood test levels depends on what causes the symptoms. Suppose you have a mild iron deficiency, doctors usually recommend you eat more food with iron, including vitamin C in your diet, take iron pills or even quit drinking black tea.

Moreover, if you are a patient of mild thalassemia, no treatment may be required. But if conditions become severe then you may need the following treatment:

1. Intravenous (IV) Infusion Iron Therapy: It is a procedure in which iron medication or supplementation is injected through a needle, directly into a vein.

2. Blood Transfusion: It is a way to transfer the donated blood to the patient’s circulatory system intravenously. 

3. Iron and Vitamin Supplements: They are common and helpful to manage the low MCH blood levels. Some iron-rich foods are pulses and beans, dates, beetroot, brown rice; leafy green vegetables like spinach, watercress, and broccoli; lean red meat, fish, nuts, and dry nuts such as prunes, raisins, and apricots.

Note: If you do not have low levels of iron, do not take iron supplements as it can hurt your organs badly.

High MCH Blood levels

High MCH Blood levels

When the MCH values are above 33.2 pg, it is referred to be a higher MCH level. This means that a large amount of hemoglobin is present per red blood cell.

This abnormally large blood cell condition called macrocytic anemia which is common in elderly people. However, vitamin B-12 or folate deficiency often causes macrocytic anemia. And, it is sometimes referred to as vitamin deficiency anemia.

In addition, malignant anemia, gastrectomy, autoimmune conditions, or vegetarian dieters could get macrocytic anemia.

Causes of High MCH Blood levels

The causes of high MCH blood levels are divided into various broad categories, let’s discuss them one by one.

Causes of High MCH blood test levels due to Vitamin B-12 deficiency can generate condition:

  • Neural tube defect in babies born in B-12 deficiency
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Infertility
  • Memory loss
  • Stomach cancer
  • Mobility problem

Cause of High MCH levels due to folate deficiency can generate conditions like:

  • Neural tube defect in newborn babies
  • Increase the risk of
    • Certain cancer such as colon cancer
    • Premature delivery in pregnant women
    • Placental rupture before or during childbirth
  • Infertility
  • Cardiovascular health problem

Note: Taking too little B-12 and folates, for too long can increase the risk of stomach cancer. It can also damage your heart, brain, bones, digestive tract, nerves, and memory.

Other causes:

  • Liver diseases
  • Hyperthyroidism— overactive thyroid gland
  • Alcoholism
  • Hypothyroidism— underactive thyroid gland
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Smoking cigarette
  • Down syndrome
  • Rare autoimmune disorders
  • Complications from certain cancers or injections

However, some drugs, including HIV drugs, cancer drugs, and other immune suppressant drugs may also increase MCH levels. Additionally, other drugs that increase the MCH levels are:

  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiretroviral
  • Diuretics
  • Anticonvulsant

Symptoms of High MCH Levels

During high MCH levels, the following are the signs and symptoms a patient may experience:

  • Increase in heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing problem
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Very pale or yellowish skin
  • Headache

The following are the signs of vitamin B-12 deficiency that develop macrocytic anemia. These includes:

  • Difficulty in memorizing
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Instability when walking
  • Weakness and pain in muscles
  • Mood swings
  • Balance disorder or unsteadiness
  • Depression or confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss

Anemia’s incident due to folate deficiency. People can experience the following additional symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Smooth or sensitive tongue

Treatment for High MCH Blood Test levels

Treatment for High MCH levels

With some changes in your lifestyle or in your diet, you can decrease the high MCH levels. Food such as fish, green leafy vegetables, and fortified grains which are rich in vitamin B-12 and folate.  And with these changes, you can easily treat high MCH levels caused by B-12 or folate deficiency.

Sometimes, the doctor advised you to take vitamin B-12 and folate supplements to further boost your levels. If you have digestive problems or you’re vegetarian, in that case, the doctor may prescribe a B-12 injection. Otherwise, take supplemental or regular B-12 shots from your doctor to boost vitamin B12 levels.

Note: Consult your doctor before taking any supplement to balance MCH levels such as vitamin B12, vitamin C, folic acid, and iron because it may cause many health side-effects if their dosage is more than regular.

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Summary

MCH is the average concentration of hemoglobin in a blood sample. It is a part of the CBC blood test. Through this test, the physician easily knows your MCH level. And guide you for treating the cause of low or high MCH levels.

Generally, changing your lifestyle and dietary supplements do their job in maintaining normal MCH blood levels. In low MCH values, try to eat foods that are rich in iron and vitamins. While, in a rare case, a low MCH value causes thalassemia, which necessitates blood transfusion when symptoms worsen.

In case of a high MCH level, you can add vitamin B-12 or folate in your diet. However, drugs and supplementation, or injections can help in treating high MCH levels.

General FAQ

How is MCH calculated?

Ans. To calculate the MCH value, one can divide the total hemoglobin content to the volume of blood.

What is the normal MCH blood test level?

Ans. The normal range for MCH in humans is between 27.5 and 33.2 picograms (pg). And this value could be even low for women.

How do you treat low MCH levels?

Ans. To treat low MCH levels, you should include more food in your diet which is rich in iron and vitamin C. In addition, you can take iron, vitamin supplements, and intravenous therapy or blood transfusions to treat low MCH levels.

What does it mean when your MCV and MCH are high?

Ans. Typically, MCH and MCV are analogous. When your MCH is high, it means that you have more than normal hemoglobin in red blood cells. This means that you have a deficiency of vitamin B-12 or folate.

What is the difference between MCH and MCHC blood tests?

Ans. MCH refers to the average amount of hemoglobin in a given blood sample. While MCHC refers to the calculation of the amount of hemoglobin per unit (volume) in a single red blood cell.