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Hgb Blood Test

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on

A hemoglobin blood test or Hgb blood test is a simple blood test that can provide important information about your health. Hemoglobin, also known as Hgb or Hb, is an essential component of the blood. It's responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and organs.

When hemoglobin levels go outside the normal range, it can lead to severe symptoms. In these cases, a Hgb blood test can provide crucial information.

How does a Hgb blood test work, and is a hemoglobin test at home possible? Find the answers in this article.

What is a hemoglobin test?

If you’ve ever done a complete blood count, you may have wondered: ‘What is Hgb or hemoglobin in the blood test?’

A Hgb test provides information about the hemoglobin levels in your blood. The test result is usually given in grams per deciliter (g/dL) of blood. The hemoglobin level is directly related to the oxygen level in the blood.

An Hgb blood test can be part of a complete blood count during a routine medical examination. Your doctor may also perform the hemoglobin blood test because you experienced symptoms linked to low hemoglobin levels. When hemoglobin levels are too low, it is a condition called anemia. People with anemia typically experience weakness, fatigue, headaches, or shortness of breath.

There's also a specialized hemoglobin test that detects if hemoglobin is present in an abnormal form called hemoglobin S. The test is called the hemoglobin solubility test, or sickle cell test. This test is qualitative, meaning the result is either positive or negative. A positive result indicates a person has a condition called sickle cell anemia. 1

What is a hemoglobin A1c test?

A hemoglobin A1c test is a blood test that checks your average blood sugar levels over the previous 90 days.

Hemoglobin binds not only oxygen but also glucose. When doctors refer to hemoglobin A1c, they mean hemoglobin that is chemically linked to glucose.

Elevated hemoglobin A1c levels can indicate diabetes or a tendency toward developing the condition. 2 Therefore, a hemoglobin A1c test does not aim at diagnosing anemia or hemoglobin-related symptoms. It is a measure to diagnose diabetes and its preforms. The hemoglobin A1c test also helps people with diabetes control their condition or manage medication changes.

Who should do a hemoglobin blood test?

A Hgb blood test can be part of a routine health check. It can also be performed when a person experiences specific symptoms connected to an abnormal hemoglobin level or anemia.

Symptoms of abnormal hemoglobin levels include: 3

  • Weakness
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat and heart palpitations
  • Chest pain

Additionally, some people are at greater risk of developing abnormal hemoglobin levels.

Risk factors include:

  • Diets that lack iron
  • Higher age
  • Pregnancy
  • Heavy periods
  • Smoking
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Liver disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or belong to a risk group, you may consider talking to your doctor about doing a hemoglobin blood test.

How to test hemoglobin at home?

You can perform an at-home hemoglobin test with a hemoglobin test kit. You'll find all the materials for a finger-prick test in your home hemoglobin test kit.

After collecting blood using the provided materials, you return your blood sample to a laboratory. The laboratory will analyze the results and send them back to you. Many hemoglobin test kits also offer the measurement of additional blood values. This can help diagnose your symptoms.

What to do if the Hgb test is low?

When your Hgb blood test is low, it is best to talk to your doctor about what to do. Depending on the underlying condition, they may advise you to follow different treatment methods. In case of iron deficiency anemia, your doctor may advise you to supplement with iron or follow an iron-rich diet. Anemia caused by low vitamin B12 or folate deficiency can be treated with a change in diet or with supplements.

If another condition causes the anemia, the treatment of that condition usually relieves the anemia as well. Aplastic anemia, a condition in which the immune system attacks blood-forming stem cells, can be treated with blood transfusions or a bone marrow transplant. 4 People who have hemolytic anemia, a condition in which blood cells are broken down in the bloodstream, can be treated with medication such as antibiotics. Sickle cell anemia can be managed with different treatments and cured with a stem cell transplant. 5

Hgb blood test FAQs

Q:What does a hemoglobin test measure?
A: A hemoglobin blood test or Hgb blood test measures the level of hemoglobin in your blood. This is an important indicator of the ability of your body to transport oxygen. Abnormal hemoglobin levels lead to weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and headaches.

Q: Do I need to fast for a hemoglobin A1c test?
A: You don’t need to fast before you do a hemoglobin A1c test. The test is very robust as it provides information about your average blood glucose level over the last 3 months. Therefore, it is less variable due to diet, stress, or illness. 6

Q: How often do you test hemoglobin levels?
A: There is no general rule on how often hemoglobin levels must be checked. It depends on your age and personal history. Ask your doctor if you should test your hemoglobin levels regularly.