Hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to tissue, should not be too low or too high on a blood count. While it is important to not have a count that is too low, an abnormally high count can indicate several diseases and conditions.
What Is Hemoglobin?
Hemoglobin is a protein molecule, present in red blood cells, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. In normal adults, hemoglobin contains four molecules that are chained together. Hemoglobin also carries iron, which is responsible for the red color of the red blood cells, and it maintains the shape of the blood cells.
Hemoglobin is measured as part of a blood count, which can be determined via several methods. Usually blood counts are measured through a machine that exposes the hemoglobin to cyanide, then shining a light to see how it is absorbed. High hemoglobin means that there are more than a normal number of protein molecules in the red blood cells. Hemoglobin counts can be high temporarily, due to dehydration or high altitude. They can also be abnormally high due to being a smoker, or having certain kinds of tumors and disorders.
Is High Hemoglobin Good?
While high hemoglobin is generally not good, it can be important to have a hemoglobin count above a certain number. Generally, a low hemoglobin count means that you have anemia, bone marrow problems, or kidney failure. Therefore, if you suffer from one of these diseases, it is important to have hemoglobin that is high enough. But usually a higher than normal hemoglobin count is not a good sign.
Link to Disease
A high hemoglobin count (above 16 gm/dl for an adult female; above 18 gm/dl for an adult male) can be indicative of several disorders and diseases. Advanced lung disease, such as emphysema, can cause an abnormally high hemoglobin count. Tumors, bone marrow disorders, and drug abuse can also cause a high hemoglobin count.
There are many treatments for someone with a high hemoglobin count, but treatment depends on what the count is indicating. Usually a doctor will do several tests to determine the cause of the high hemoglobin count before deciding upon a treatment.