What is MCHC?

MCHC, short for mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, is a measurement of the amount of hemoglobin in your blood. You might have a MCHC test done as a part of a complete health check, or it can be used to help diagnose certain health problems. 

Having particularly high or low levels of hemoglobin in your blood cells can be a sign of current or future health problems, so an MCHC test can help you prevent or resolve a number of health complications. 

Hemoglobin is a protein that helps carry oxygen from your lungs through the rest of your body. Low levels of hemoglobin can make your lungs and heart work harder to keep your body supplied with enough oxygen to function properly. 

On the other hand, high levels of hemoglobin can be a sign that your body is compensating for lung and heart problems. Both high and low MCHC values are indications of different types of anemia

While a high or low MCHC level isn’t necessarily a problem on its own, it is often the result of other health problems. Understanding the signs and symptoms of high or low MCHC levels can help you get the treatment you need. 

Signs and symptoms of high or low MCHC

Conditions that cause both high and low MCHC values often result in similar symptoms. Since both high and low MCHC levels are correlated to difficulty transporting oxygen through your body, both can lead to serious fatigue. Since your body isn’t getting enough oxygen, your cells aren’t getting the energy they need and you feel tired.

Other symptoms of high and low MCHC include:

Feeling cold

Since you’re not getting as much oxygen in your body, your body loses some of its ability to regulate your temperature. For many people with anemia and low or high MCHC levels, this means they often feel cold even when others around them feel comfortable.

Fast heartbeat

If your MCHC values are low, then your heart will need to compensate to get more oxygen to the rest of your body. That can lead to a rapid heart rate even when you’re resting. You can also have a rapid heart rate with certain conditions that lead to high MCHC levels.

Pale or yellow skin

Your blood is partly responsible for the color of your skin, especially among paler people. Some people with different forms of anemia or other hemoglobin complications will appear pale or yellow because there is less blood to color their skin. 

Shortness of breath

When your body is struggling to get enough oxygen, you may experience shortness of breath. This is common in more severe cases of anemia.

Dizziness

When your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, you may feel dizzy or off-balance. 

In severe cases, symptoms of anemia and high or low MCHC values can include:

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should get medical help immediately.

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Causes of low or high MCHC values

High and low MCHC values have different causes. Potential causes of high or low MCHC values include:

Low iron intake

Getting enough iron in your diet is critical to avoid anemia. If you aren’t getting enough iron, or 8 mg for adult men and 18 mg for adult women, then you may experience iron-deficiency anemia and low MCHC levels.

Vitamin deficiencies

Iron isn’t the only important micronutrient for your blood. If you aren’t getting enough vitamin B12 or folate, then you may experience vitamin deficiency anemia and low MCHC levels.

Genetic causes

Some cases of low or high MCHC levels can be genetic. These include conditions like sickle cell anemia, in which your body produces curved red blood cells that don’t live as long as healthy cells. It can lead to high MCHC levels.

Diagnosing high or low MCHC values

To check your MCHC levels, you will need to get a blood test performed. A medical professional will take a sample of blood and send it to a lab to be analyzed. They will check your MCHC value, along with other values like your MCV (Mean corpuscular volume), or the size of your blood cells. 

In combination with other values, your MCHC value can help your doctor diagnose the cause of your symptoms. Average MCHC levels range between 30 and 34 gHb/100ml.

Treatments for High or Low MCHC Values

Many types of anemia can be treated with iron, folate, or vitamin B12 supplements. Other types, particularly serious genetic anemia, may require blood transfusions, medication, or bone marrow transplants. Talk with your doctor to identify the treatment that will work best for you.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/10/2021
References
American Society of Hematology: "Anemia."

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: "Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration and cell deformability."

Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Iron and thermoregulation: a review."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Hemolytic Anemia."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Iron-Deficiency Anemia."

Lab Tests Online: "Complete Blood Count (CBC)."

McGill University: "Blood cell indices."

Merck Manual: "Vitamin Deficiency Anemia."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Anemia."

National Institutes of Health: "In Brief: Your Guide to Anemia."

National Institutes of Health: "Iron."

University of Rochester Health Encyclopedia: "Hemoglobin."

University of Rochester Health Encyclopedia: "What Are Red Blood Cells?"