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Low MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) level in the blood

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Low MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) level in the blood
Last update: 18/12/2020

What is a low MCV called?

  • Microcytosis

What is the normal MCV level in the blood?

If you need to know which are the MCV reference ranges or you require more information about the role of MCV in the blood you can visit: Normal MCV level in the blood

What does a low MCV in a blood test mean?

MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) describes the average size of the RBCs (Red Blood Cell). A low MCV indicates that the red blood cell size appears smaller than normal (microcytic).

A low MCV value may be due to three main causes:

  • Iron deficiency anemia.
  • Thalassemia.
  • Anemia of chronic disease/inflammation.

A low MCV is usually related to anemia and for that reason, the hemoglobin level in the blood will be below the normal range. A low MCV (microcytosis) along with anemia is called microcytic anemia.

Microcytosis or a low MCV level in the blood means:

  • Mild microcytosis (75 - 80 fl in adults):

    A mild microcytosis is common in iron-deficiency anemia. In the iron deficiency anemia the blood test usually shows a low RBC count, hemoglobin low in the blood and a mild microcytosis.

    Iron-deficiency anemia is due to lack of iron. Iron is an essential element for the correct production of RBC. The lack of iron may be due to bleeding (menstrual bleeding, ulcer, etc.).

    Only 50% of the iron-deficiency anemia patients show a MCV lower than normal. For that reason, it is recommended to study ferritin and transferrin saturation to diagnose the iron-deficiency anemia. In case of iron-deficiency anemia, ferritin will be below 30 ng/ml and transferrin saturation will be below 15%.

    A mild microcytosis may be also due anemia of chronic disease, for example, in case of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

  • Moderate microcytosis (65 - 75 fl in adults):

    A moderate microcytosis may be a sign of thalassemia. Thalassemia is a group of hereditary disorders in which the body produces an abnormal form of hemoglobin (hemoglobinopathy).

    There are many types of thalassemia. A moderate microcytosis usually correspond to the least serious types like alpha thalassemia.

    A moderate microcytosis may also be seen in moderate iron-deficiency anemia when the hemoglobin level is below 9 g/dl.

    Another possibility is due to a genetic condition called congenital sideroblastic anemia.

  • Marked microcytosis (55 - 75 fl in adults):

    A marked microcytosis may be a sign of different types of thalassemia, such as thalassemia intermedia, beta thalassemia minor or Hemoglobin H disease. Those are moderate types of thalassemia.

    A marked microcytosis may also be seen in marked iron-deficiency anemia when the hemoglobin level around 7 or 8 g/dl.

  • Severe microcytosis (< 55 fl in adults):

    Severe microcytosis may be a sign of serious types of thalassemia, such as beta thalassemia major.

    A marked microcytosis may also be seen in severe iron-deficiency anemia when the hemoglobin is below 6 g/dl.

Which factors can reduce the MCV?

There are some circumstances and drugs than can reduce your MCV:

  • Lead poisoning
  • Drugs
    • Antituberculars
      • Isoniazid
      • Pyrazinamide
    • Bacteriostatic agent
      • Chloramphenicol
    • Immunosuppressive drug
      • Everolimus
      • Rapamycin (Sirolimus)

Which diseases can reduce your MCV?

A lower than normal MCV can be due to:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Thalassemia
  • Congenital sideroblastic anemia
  • Acquired sideroblastic anemia
  • Saturnism
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Crohn's disease
  • Colorectal cancer

What can I do to increase the MCV level in the blood?

The main reason to suffer microcytosis is iron deficiency anemia. If that was the case, you may increase the MCV level by taking more iron in your diet. Iron rich food includes:

  • Red meat (beef and pork)
  • Seafood (clams, mussels)
  • Nuts (walnuts, pistachios)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
  • Vegetables (spinach and chard)

If you doctor considers it appropriate you can also take iron supplements.

Where can I find more information about MCV level in the blood?

You can visit our pages about:

Which values are considered a low MCV level in the blood?

The following values are considered to be above the normal range:

IMPORTANT: These levels are expressed in fl (femtoliter). They are an example of a healthy woman of about 45 years old with no known disease and not taking any medication. The ranges can be different depending on the laboratory or on your personal circumstances.

MCV
Mild microcytocis
79.9 fl79.8 fl79.7 fl79.6 fl79.5 fl79.4 fl79.3 fl79.2 fl
79.1 fl79 fl78.9 fl78.8 fl78.7 fl78.6 fl78.5 fl78.4 fl
78.3 fl78.2 fl78.1 fl78 fl77.9 fl77.8 fl77.7 fl77.6 fl
77.5 fl77.4 fl77.3 fl77.2 fl77.1 fl77 fl76.9 fl76.8 fl
76.7 fl76.6 fl76.5 fl76.4 fl76.3 fl76.2 fl76.1 fl76 fl
75.9 fl75.8 fl75.7 fl75.6 fl75.5 fl75.4 fl75.3 fl75.2 fl
75.1 fl75 fl      
Moderate microcytocis
74.9 fl74.8 fl74.7 fl74.6 fl74.5 fl74.4 fl74.3 fl74.2 fl
74.1 fl74 fl73.9 fl73.8 fl73.7 fl73.6 fl73.5 fl73.4 fl
73.3 fl73.2 fl73.1 fl73 fl72.9 fl72.8 fl72.7 fl72.6 fl
72.5 fl72.4 fl72.3 fl72.2 fl72.1 fl72 fl71.9 fl71.8 fl
71.7 fl71.6 fl71.5 fl71.4 fl71.3 fl71.2 fl71.1 fl71 fl
70.9 fl70.8 fl70.7 fl70.6 fl70.5 fl70.4 fl70.3 fl70.2 fl
70.1 fl70 fl69.9 fl69.8 fl69.7 fl69.6 fl69.5 fl69.4 fl
69.3 fl69.2 fl69.1 fl69 fl68.9 fl68.8 fl68.7 fl68.6 fl
68.5 fl68.4 fl68.3 fl68.2 fl68.1 fl68 fl67.9 fl67.8 fl
67.7 fl67.6 fl67.5 fl67.4 fl67.3 fl67.2 fl67.1 fl67 fl
66.9 fl66.8 fl66.7 fl66.6 fl66.5 fl66.4 fl66.3 fl66.2 fl
66.1 fl66 fl65.9 fl65.8 fl65.7 fl65.6 fl65.5 fl65.4 fl
65.3 fl65.2 fl65.1 fl65 fl    
Marked microcytocis
64.9 fl64.8 fl64.7 fl64.6 fl64.5 fl64.4 fl64.3 fl64.2 fl
64.1 fl64 fl63.9 fl63.8 fl63.7 fl63.6 fl63.5 fl63.4 fl
63.3 fl63.2 fl63.1 fl63 fl62.9 fl62.8 fl62.7 fl62.6 fl
62.5 fl62.4 fl62.3 fl62.2 fl62.1 fl62 fl61.9 fl61.8 fl
61.7 fl61.6 fl61.5 fl61.4 fl61.3 fl61.2 fl61.1 fl61 fl
60.9 fl60.8 fl60.7 fl60.6 fl60.5 fl60.4 fl60.3 fl60.2 fl
60.1 fl60 fl59.9 fl59.8 fl59.7 fl59.6 fl59.5 fl59.4 fl
59.3 fl59.2 fl59.1 fl59 fl58.9 fl58.8 fl58.7 fl58.6 fl
58.5 fl58.4 fl58.3 fl58.2 fl58.1 fl58 fl57.9 fl57.8 fl
57.7 fl57.6 fl57.5 fl57.4 fl57.3 fl57.2 fl57.1 fl57 fl
56.9 fl56.8 fl56.7 fl56.6 fl56.5 fl56.4 fl56.3 fl56.2 fl
56.1 fl56 fl55.9 fl55.8 fl55.7 fl55.6 fl55.5 fl55.4 fl
55.3 fl55.2 fl55.1 fl55 fl    
Severe microcytocis
54.9 fl54.8 fl54.7 fl54.6 fl54.5 fl54.4 fl54.3 fl54.2 fl
54.1 fl54 fl53.9 fl53.8 fl53.7 fl53.6 fl53.5 fl53.4 fl
53.3 fl53.2 fl53.1 fl53 fl52.9 fl52.8 fl52.7 fl52.6 fl
52.5 fl52.4 fl52.3 fl52.2 fl52.1 fl52 fl51.9 fl51.8 fl
51.7 fl51.6 fl51.5 fl51.4 fl51.3 fl51.2 fl51.1 fl51 fl
50.9 fl50.8 fl50.7 fl50.6 fl50.5 fl50.4 fl50.3 fl50.2 fl
50.1 fl50 fl49.9 fl49.8 fl49.7 fl49.6 fl49.5 fl49.4 fl
49.3 fl49.2 fl49.1 fl49 fl48.9 fl48.8 fl48.7 fl48.6 fl
48.5 fl48.4 fl48.3 fl48.2 fl48.1 fl48 fl47.9 fl47.8 fl
47.7 fl47.6 fl47.5 fl47.4 fl47.3 fl47.2 fl47.1 fl47 fl
46.9 fl46.8 fl46.7 fl46.6 fl46.5 fl46.4 fl46.3 fl46.2 fl
46.1 fl46 fl45.9 fl45.8 fl45.7 fl45.6 fl45.5 fl45.4 fl
45.3 fl45.2 fl45.1 fl45 fl44.9 fl44.8 fl44.7 fl44.6 fl
44.5 fl44.4 fl44.3 fl44.2 fl44.1 fl44 fl43.9 fl43.8 fl
43.7 fl43.6 fl43.5 fl43.4 fl43.3 fl43.2 fl43.1 fl43 fl
42.9 fl42.8 fl42.7 fl42.6 fl42.5 fl42.4 fl42.3 fl42.2 fl
42.1 fl42 fl41.9 fl41.8 fl41.7 fl41.6 fl41.5 fl41.4 fl
41.3 fl41.2 fl41.1 fl41 fl40.9 fl40.8 fl40.7 fl40.6 fl
40.5 fl40.4 fl40.3 fl40.2 fl40.1 fl40 fl  
Medically reviewed by our Medical staff on 18/12/2020

Bibliography

  • Concise Book of Medical Laboratory Technology: Methods and Interpretations. 2nd Edition. 2015. Ramnik Sood. ISBN: 978-93-5152-333-8. Pag. 216.
  • A Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Test. 9th edition. Frances Fischbach. Marshall B. Dunning III. 2014. Pag 98. ISBN-10: 1451190891.
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures with nursing diagnoses (8th ed), Jane Vincent Corbett, Angela Denise Banks, ISBN: 978-0-13-237332-6, Pag. 33.

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