The normal range for hemoglobin is:

  • For men, 13.5 to 17.5 grams per deciliter
  • For women, 12.0 to 15.5 grams per deciliter

Normal ranges for children vary with age and sex. The range for a normal hemoglobin level may differ from one medical practice to another.

Lower than normal results

If your hemoglobin level is lower than normal, you have anemia. There are many forms of anemia, each with different causes, which can include:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Folate deficiency
  • Bleeding
  • Cancers that affect the bone marrow, such as leukemia
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Thalassemia — a genetic disorder that causes low levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells

If you've been previously diagnosed with anemia, a hemoglobin level that's lower than normal may indicate a need to alter your treatment plan.

Higher than normal results

If your hemoglobin level is higher than normal, it may be the result of:

  • Polycythemia vera — a blood disorder in which your bone marrow makes too many red blood cells
  • Lung disease
  • Dehydration
  • Living at a high altitude
  • Heavy smoking
  • Burns
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Extreme physical exercise

If you've been previously diagnosed with polycythemia vera, an elevated hemoglobin level may indicate a need to alter your treatment plan.

If your hemoglobin level is below or above normal, your doctor may want to evaluate the hemoglobin test results along with those of other tests, or additional tests may be necessary, to determine next steps.

For specifics about what your hemoglobin test results mean, talk to your doctor.

Apr. 14, 2014