MCHC or mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration refers to the average content of hemoglobin’s in RBCs or red blood cells. The MCHC value is noted down in a CBC or complete blood count report. It is one of the indices of RBCs and is used for diagnosis of anemia along with the cause, type, and severity of the disease.
The normal range for MCHC in adults is in the range of 32 to 36 grams/deciliter. Lower than normal MCHC is called hypochromia and is indicative of reduced hemoglobin in each RBC irrespective of the cell’s size. Low MCHC is usually observed in conditions like thalassemia and iron deficiency anemia. Higher than normal MCHC is called hyperchromia and is marked by higher hemoglobin concentration in each RBC.
Meaning of Low and High MCHC
The MCH or mean cell hemoglobin section of a CBC shows the measure of total hemoglobin content in an RBC. It is however dependent on the size of the RBCs. On the other hand, the MCHC indicates whether or not those RBCs consist of more or less than normal hemoglobin amount. As hemoglobin gives RBCs its red color, the result will be RBCs looking either less or more reddish.
- Low MCHC levels: The average MCHC is about 33 percent. Doctor may report MCHC to be too low is it is below 28 percent.
- Low levels of MCHC may be indicative of underlying conditions like iron deficiency anemia or lack of iron in the body. Iron deficiency anemia may occur due to reduced intake of iron in diet or body’s inability to absorb iron or to use iron to produce hemoglobin.
- Low MCHC levels may also occur due to tumors in the gastrointestinal tract or colon, internal bleeding, or blood loss over a period of time. Slow and prolonged blood loss can trigger low levels of iron and eventually low MCH concentration.
- People experiencing symptoms like fatigue, dyspnea, headache, diarrhea, sore tongue, ataxia, tachycardia, sensation loss of posterior column, and reflex issues with deep tendons must seek medical attention to test MCHC and verify if macrocytic anemia is the cause.
- High MCHC levels: If MCHC levels are above 33 percent, then it is considered as higher than normal.
- High MCHC is usually observed conditions like autoimmune hemolytic anemia as well as in burn victims.
- Other causes of high levels of MCHC include liver diseases, folic acid deficits, vitamin B12 deficiencies, and hereditary spherocytosis which is an uncommon condition.
MCHC test: The Procedure
Doctors may suggest an MCHC blood test if a patient shows the signs and symptoms of weakness, fatigue, visible inflammation, easy bruising, easy bleeding, or an infection. A complete blood count test is the most common kind of test used for checking the levels of MCV as well as MCHC markers. The CBC test will also provide a general view of the overall health of a patient.
In order to carry out a CBC MCHC test, a blood sample is collected from the patient by inserting a needle attached to a syringe into the arm and then drawing out blood. The blood is then placed in a tube with a few drops of anticoagulant to prevent clotting. A lab technician will analyze the sample in a Coulter counter. In this, the blood cells pass via an aperture where their size and count/number is measured. The count of red blood cells is then multiplied by its size to get the hematocrit number. The red cells are burst and this helps measure the hemoglobin amount. Later, a calculation is carried out by the instrument which involves division of hemoglobin by hematocrit.
The lab technician will also microscopically examine the blood sample to verify the differential, if needed. Low MCHC will cause the red blood cells to appear paler than normal, while high MCHC will cause the RBCs to appear darker.
Improving the levels of MCHC
It is important to consult a doctor to diagnose the cause of low MCHC before trying on methods to improve the hemoglobin levels.
- If it occurs as a side effect of using certain medications, then consult the doctor for alternative drugs.
- If MCHC level discrepancies occur due to underlying systemic disorders like cancer, bone marrow anomalies, or kidney diseases, etc., then patients need to go for specialized therapies.
- It is caused because of deficits in nutrition, then patients need to change the diet and add more vitamin, iron, and mineral abundant foods. You may also opt for nutritional supplements. Nutritional deficiencies which are often linked to MCHC levels include folate, iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin C.
Filed in: Diagnosis