Normally low hemoglobin counts
A slightly low hemoglobin count isn't always a sign of illness — it can be normal for some people. Women with menstrual periods and pregnant women commonly have low hemoglobin counts.
Low hemoglobin counts associated with diseases and conditions
A low hemoglobin count can be associated with a disease or condition that causes your body to have too few red blood cells. This can occur if:
- Your body produces fewer red blood cells than usual
- Your body destroys red blood cells faster than they can be produced
- You have blood loss
Diseases and conditions that cause your body to produce fewer red blood cells than normal include:
- Aplastic anemia
- Certain medications, such as antiretroviral drugs for HIV infection and chemotherapy drugs for cancer and other conditions
- Chronic kidney disease
- Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Lead poisoning
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Vitamin deficiency anemia
Diseases and conditions that cause your body to destroy red blood cells faster than they can be made include:
- Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
- Sickle cell anemia
A low hemoglobin count can also be due to blood loss, which can occur because of:
- Bleeding in your digestive tract, such as from ulcers, cancers or hemorrhoids
- Frequent blood donation
- Menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding-although even normal menstrual bleeding may cause a slightly low hemoglobin count)
May 30, 2020
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
- Hemoglobin. Lab Tests Online. https://labtestsonline.org/tests/hemoglobin. Accessed March 6, 2020.
- McPherson RA, et al. Erythrocytic disorders. In: Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. Elsevier Inc.; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 6, 2020.
- Leung LLK. Approach to the adult with anemia. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 6, 2020.
- Low red blood cell counts (anemia). American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/low-blood-counts/anemia.html. Accessed March 6, 2020.
- Donors deferred for low hemoglobin. American Red Cross. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/blood-donation-process/before-during-after/iron-blood-donation/donors-deferred-forlowhemoglobin.html. Accessed March 20, 2020.