Mean corpuscular (or cell) hemoglobin (abbreviated as MCH) is an estimate of the amount of hemoglobin in an average red blood cell. Hemoglobin is a substance in the blood that carries oxygen to the cells in the body from the lungs.
High hemoglobin content is often referred to as hyperchromia, and low content, hypochromia.
When anemia is present, calculating a person’s MCH can help to determine the type of anemia, as well as its level of severity.
26.6 - 33 pg
High values usually indicate the presence of macrocytic anemia— anemia characterized by red blood cells that are larger than normal in size. Hereditary and hemolytic anemias, as well as megaloblastic anemia, are often macrocytic.
The common causes of high MCH include:
- Certain medications, such as anticonvulsant drugs, diabetic medications, and oral contraceptives
- Hemolytic anemia
- Hereditary anemia
- Intestinal malabsorption of nutrients due to surgery or an underlying medical condition
- Liver disease
- Megaloblastic anemia
Low MCH is associated with microcytic anemia, which is characterized by smaller-than-normal RBCs, and normocytic anemia, when red blood cells are normal in size but do not contain sufficient hemoglobin. When low MCH is a feature of anemia, the condition is said to be hypochromic. Causes of low MCH include:
- Acute or chronic bleeding due to menstruation, physical trauma, surgery, or ulcers, among other types of blood loss
- Deficiency in copper, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) or vitamin C
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Hemolytic anemia
- Iron-deficiency anemia
- Lead poisoning
- Kidney disorders
- Removal of the spleen (splenectomy)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sickle cell anemia
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