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Low hematocrit percentage in the blood

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Low hematocrit percentage in the blood
Last update: 15/12/2020

What is a low hematocrit percentage called?

  • Hematocrit low

What is the normal hematocrit percentage in the blood?

If you need to know which are the hematocrit reference ranges or you require more information about the role of hematocrit in the blood, you can visit normal hematocrit percentage in the blood

What does a low hematocrit percentage mean?

A low hematocrit (HCT) percentage may be a sign of anemia. A low hematocrit percentage is usually seen along a low hemoglobin level in the blood, what is called anemia. Hemoglobin and hematocrit usually decrease simultaneously.

There are many types of anemia and multiple causes of this disorder. The most common types of anemia are:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia: It is definitely the most common anemia. The lack of iron may be due to excessive bleeding, menstruation or ulcers. If hemoglobin, hematocrit and iron are simultaneously low, it is the first possibility that should be studied.
  • Posthemorrhagic anemia due to severe bleedings.
  • Megaloblastic anemia as a consequence of lack of vitamin B12 or folic acid.
  • Aplastic anemia due to a disorder of the bone marrow.
  • Hemolytic anemia and thalassemia as a consequence of an unbalanced hemoglobin synthesis.
  • Anemia of the chronic disease related to kidney (kidney failure) or liver (cirrhosis).

In addition to the hematocrit percentage, it is necessary to study other RBC tests such as RBC count, hemoglobin, MCV, MCH, MCHC and RDW to identify the type of anemia.

A low hematocrit percentage in the blood means:

  • Mild hematocrit decrease (33 - 36 % in adult women and 33 – 40% in adult men):

    A mild hematocrit decrease is not usually a matter for concern.

    It may be due to a drug interaction or a recent bleeding for example, because of menstruation in women.

    In any case, the hematocrit should be monitored along with the hemoglobin because it may be the first sign of an anemia.

  • Moderate hematocrit decrease (24 - 33 % in adult women and 24 – 33% in adult men):

    A moderate hematocrit decrease is usually a sign of anemia.

    A hematocrit of 30% correlates with a hemoglobin level around 10 g/dl and the symptoms of a moderate anemia, such as fatigue or headache, will be present.

    You should visit your doctor and he will prescribe you the proper treatment depending on the type of anemia you may suffer.

  • Severe hematocrit decrease (< 24 % in adult women and < 24% in adult men):

    A hematocrit level around 24% correlates with a hemoglobin level around 8 g/dl that can be considered a severe anemia.

    With such a low value, the symptoms of a severe anemia are usually present and you may suffer from dyspnea (difficulty breathing), fainting and palpitations.

    If hematocrit percentage is below 18%, you will not be able to do any physical activity and it may lead to cardiovascular problems (tachycardia, etc.). In this case, you may need a blood transfusion to increase the hematocrit level. Each time a blood transfusion is made, hematocrit increase around 3 or 4%.

    If hematocrit falls below 15 % is considered very dangerous because it may lead to serious heart problems.

Which factors can reduce the hematocrit percentage in the blood?

There are some health circumstances or drugs than can reduce your hematocrit percentage in the blood:

  • Pregnancy
  • Bleeding
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Drugs
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
      • Diclofenac
    • Antibiotics
      • Cephalosporin
      • Penicillin
    • Antiviral drug
      • Rivabirin
    • Bacteriostatic agent
      • Chloramphenicol

Which diseases can reduce your hematocrit percentage in the blood?

Lower than normal percentage of hematocrit in the blood can be due to:

What can I do to increase the hematocrit percentage in the blood?

A hematocrit percentage below the normal range may be due to multiple causes. It is necessary to know the underlying cause for a proper treatment.

However, there are some general tips that may help you:

  • Follow a healthy diet with an adequate intake of iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid that are essential for an adequate production of RBCs.
  • Perform blood test periodically to monitor the hematocrit level and see if the prescribed treatment is effective.

Where can I find more information about hematocrit percentage in the blood?

You can visit our pages about:

Which values are considered a low hematocrit percentage in the blood?

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

IMPORTANT: These levels are expressed in percentage. 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.

Hematocrit
Mild hematocrit decrease
35.9 %35.8 %35.7 %35.6 %35.5 %35.4 %35.3 %35.2 %
35.1 %35 %34.9 %34.8 %34.7 %34.6 %34.5 %34.4 %
34.3 %34.2 %34.1 %34 %33.9 %33.8 %33.7 %33.6 %
33.5 %33.4 %33.3 %33.2 %33.1 %33 %  
Moderate hematocrit decrease
32.9 %32.8 %32.7 %32.6 %32.5 %32.4 %32.3 %32.2 %
32.1 %32 %31.9 %31.8 %31.7 %31.6 %31.5 %31.4 %
31.3 %31.2 %31.1 %31 %30.9 %30.8 %30.7 %30.6 %
30.5 %30.4 %30.3 %30.2 %30.1 %30 %29.9 %29.8 %
29.7 %29.6 %29.5 %29.4 %29.3 %29.2 %29.1 %29 %
28.9 %28.8 %28.7 %28.6 %28.5 %28.4 %28.3 %28.2 %
28.1 %28 %27.9 %27.8 %27.7 %27.6 %27.5 %27.4 %
27.3 %27.2 %27.1 %27 %26.9 %26.8 %26.7 %26.6 %
26.5 %26.4 %26.3 %26.2 %26.1 %26 %25.9 %25.8 %
25.7 %25.6 %25.5 %25.4 %25.3 %25.2 %25.1 %25 %
24.9 %24.8 %24.7 %24.6 %24.5 %24.4 %24.3 %24.2 %
24.1 %24 %      
Severe hematocrit decrease
23.9 %23.8 %23.7 %23.6 %23.5 %23.4 %23.3 %23.2 %
23.1 %23 %22.9 %22.8 %22.7 %22.6 %22.5 %22.4 %
22.3 %22.2 %22.1 %22 %21.9 %21.8 %21.7 %21.6 %
21.5 %21.4 %21.3 %21.2 %21.1 %21 %20.9 %20.8 %
20.7 %20.6 %20.5 %20.4 %20.3 %20.2 %20.1 %20 %
19.9 %19.8 %19.7 %19.6 %19.5 %19.4 %19.3 %19.2 %
19.1 %19 %18.9 %18.8 %18.7 %18.6 %18.5 %18.4 %
18.3 %18.2 %18.1 %18 %17.9 %17.8 %17.7 %17.6 %
17.5 %17.4 %17.3 %17.2 %17.1 %17 %16.9 %16.8 %
16.7 %16.6 %16.5 %16.4 %16.3 %16.2 %16.1 %16 %
15.9 %15.8 %15.7 %15.6 %15.5 %15.4 %15.3 %15.2 %
15.1 %15 %      
Medically reviewed by our Medical staff on 15/12/2020

Bibliography

  • Concise Book of Medical Laboratory Technology: Methods and Interpretations. 2nd Edition. 2015. Ramnik Sood. ISBN: 978-93-5152-333-8. Pag. 212.
  • A Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Test. 9th edition. Frances Fischbach. Marshall B. Dunning III. 2014. Pag 90. ISBN-10: 1451190891.
  • Essentials of Medical Laboratory Practice. Constance L. Lieseke, Elizabeth A. Zeibig. 2012. ISBN: 978-0-8036-1899-2 Pag: 299.
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures with nursing diagnoses (8th ed), Jane Vincent Corbett, Angela Denise Banks, ISBN: 978-0-13-237332-6, Pag. 27.

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