Experts Speak: Is High Haemoglobin A Boon Or Bane For Your Health?

Experts Speak: Is High Haemoglobin A Boon Or Bane For Your Health?

VERIFIEDExperts Speak: Is High Haemoglobin A Boon or Bane For Your Health?

Dr Rahul Bhargava and Dr. Nikhil. M. Kumar explains the condition Polycythemia, which increases the red blood cells in your body, and how this can impact your health.

Written by Kinkini Gupta|Updated : November 16, 2023 4:31 PM IST

One of the many reasons why we are alive is haemolglobin. The main function of it is to absorb oxygen when we breathe and transport it to each cell and organ of our body. The iron content present in haemoglobin assists it in the same function. This is why we are told, time and again to eat foods that are rich in iron. The more the iron in the body, the more the oxygen supply. The color of the red blood cells is also because of haemoglobin. But, is there such a thing called ‘too much haemoglobin?’

Yes there is and it is called polycythemia. Polycythemia is a condition in which there is an increase in red cells in our body. This can occur due to abnormalities in the bone marrow leading to increased production of red blood cells in the bone marrow (Polycythemia vera). These excess cells thicken the blood, slowing its flow and can cause serious problems like Other causes of polycythemia include smoking, diseases of the heart or lungs and living at high altitude for prolonged time periods.

Dr Rahul Bhargava, the Principal Director & Chief of BMT, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram and Dr. Nikhil. M. Kumar, an Associate Consultant at The Department of Hematology and BMT, Fortis Memorial Research Institute Gurgaon spoke to on ‘High Haemoglobin – A Boon or Bane?’


How Much Haemoglobin In The Body Is Too High?

Dr Rahul Bhargava says, “Hemoglobin levels of more than 16.5g/dL in males and 16g/dL in females is considered abnormal and warrants further evaluation.”

What Symptoms Can High HB Cause?

High hemoglobin levels may be detected on routine blood tests and sometimes may not cause any symptoms.

Whereas, it may also cause a variety of symptoms like:

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  1. Blurred vision
  2. Itching all over the body after a warm shower
  3. Painful and swollen joints
  4. It can also cause major problems like stroke, heart attack, blood clot in legs etc.

What To Do If You Have High Haemoglobin?

High hemoglobin levels should not be ignored as it can increase the risk of blood clotting and can sometimes lead to dangerous conditions like stroke, heart attack and blood clots in legs and abdomen. If high hemoglobin levels are detected on routine evaluation, a hematologist should be consulted for further evaluation. Secondary causes of polycythemia including obstructive sleep apnea, diseases of heart and lungs should be looked for. Routine blood tests including a peripheral smear, Serum erythropoietin levels and JAK2 mutation study is necessary for routine evaluation. A bone marrow examination is also performed to determine the cause of polycythemia in selected cases.

How Is Polycythemia Vera Treated?

Treatment ofpolycythemiaincludes removing blood from the body- a process called phlebotomy, blood thinners like aspirin which helps prevent blood clotting and medicines like hydroxyurea which helps stop bone marrow from producing increased cells.

Follow these dos and don’ts:

  1. Smoking should be avoided as it increases the risk of blood clotting.
  2. Diabetes and high blood pressure should be controlled as they are independent risk factors for stroke and heart attack.
  3. Adequate oral fluid intake should be maintained.

High haemoglobin levels can occur due to a variety of causes. If high hemoglobin is detected on routine blood tests, it should not be ignored and a hematologist should be consulted at the earliest for further evaluation. Correct evaluation and timely intervention can prevent serious complications that can occur due to high hemoglobin levels in our body.

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