A high hemoglobin count occurs most commonly when your body requires an increased oxygen-carrying capacity, usually because:
- You smoke
- You live at a high altitude and your red blood cell production naturally increases to compensate for the lower oxygen supply there
High hemoglobin count occurs less commonly because:
- Your red blood cell production increases to make up for chronically low blood oxygen levels due to poor heart or lung function.
- Your bone marrow produces too many red blood cells.
- You've taken drugs or hormones, most commonly erythropoietin (EPO), that stimulate red blood cell production. You're not likely to get a high hemoglobin count from EPO given to you for chronic kidney disease. But EPO doping — getting injections to enhance athletic performance — can cause a high hemoglobin count.
If you have a high hemoglobin count without other abnormalities, it's unlikely to indicate a related serious condition. Conditions that can cause a high hemoglobin count include:
- Congenital heart disease in adults
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) exacerbation — worsening of symptoms
- Heart failure
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Polycythemia vera
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Dec. 02, 2020
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- Hemoglobin. Lab Tests Online. https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/hemoglobin/tab/test/. Accessed Dec. 30, 2018.
- Blood basics. American Society of Hematology. http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Basics/. Accessed Dec. 30, 2018.
- Blood tests. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests. Accessed Dec. 30, 2018.
- Understanding blood counts. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. https://www.lls.org/managing-your-cancer/lab-and-imaging-tests/understanding-blood-counts. Accessed Dec. 30, 2018.
- Tefferi A. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of polycythemia vera. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Dec. 30, 2018.
- Tefferi A. Diagnostic approach to the patient with polycythemia. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 3, 2019.