vials with blood samples

What Does Low Hemoglobin Mean?

vials with blood samples

Hemoglobin is a vital protein contained in red blood cells. It moves oxygen from the lungs throughout the body, ensuring the proper functioning of the organs and tissues. Low hemoglobin levels can cause physical symptoms and health problems, such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath, significantly affecting the quality of life.

This blog briefly discusses low hemoglobin levels, including their causes, symptoms, possible treatments, and ways to keep hemoglobin levels healthy and avoid future problems.

Understanding low hemoglobin

What is hemoglobin? Simply put, it is a protein in red blood cells that is accountable for transporting oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. Hemoglobin comprises four protein chains, each containing a heme molecule that binds to oxygen, allowing hemoglobin to transport oxygen throughout the body.

Without hemoglobin, our organs and tissues would not get enough oxygen to operate, and our bodies would not be able to manufacture enough energy to conquer the day successfully.

How is it structured?

Hemoglobin is a complex protein comprising four chains of amino acids in specific arrangements, giving hemoglobin its unique structure.1 Hemoglobin comprises two alpha chains and two beta chains, and each alpha chain and the beta chain has one heme molecule.

molecule model

The heme molecule is a complex of iron and porphyrin that binds with oxygen. The iron ion in heme binds with oxygen to form oxyhemoglobin, a bright red pigment that gives oxygenated blood its characteristic color. The oxygen-carrying capacity of hemoglobin depends on the number of oxygen molecules that bind to the heme groups.

The unique structure of hemoglobin allows it to efficiently diffuse oxygen across the walls of the air sacs and into the red blood cells, which bind to the heme groups in hemoglobin. As the blood circulates through the body, oxygen is released from hemoglobin and diffuses into tissues where needed.

The role of iron in hemoglobin

Iron plays a critical role in the structure and function of hemoglobin. It is a necessary component of the heme molecule, part of hemoglobin that binds with oxygen. Without enough iron, the body cannot make enough heme, making it harder to make enough functional hemoglobin to move oxygen around the body.

spinach on a toast

Low hemoglobin causes

Several forms of anemia can lead to low hemoglobin levels.2 The most common types are:

Iron-deficiency anemia:

Iron deficiency Anemia results from the body’s incapacity to produce sufficient amounts of iron needed to produce hemoglobin. This form of anemia can result from insufficient nutrition, difficulty or inability to absorb food, significant blood loss, or certain medical conditions. Common symptoms include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, headaches, and pale skin.

Vitamin-deficiency anemia:

Vitamin deficiency Anemia is caused by a deficiency of vitamins such as vitamin B12 or folate. These vitamins are necessary for the body to make red blood cells and hemoglobin, and insufficient levels of these vitamins can result in anemia. Symptoms may include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and a pale complexion.

Anemia caused by chronic diseases:

Some chronic diseases, such as kidney disease or cancer, can lead to anemia by affecting the body’s ability to produce red blood cells. In these cases, anemia is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Anemia caused by a long-term illness can often be avoided when caring for the underlying illness, which may involve medications or other therapies.

What does low hemoglobin mean?

Low hemoglobin levels can be obtained through hemoglobin-measuring blood tests. Normal hemoglobin levels vary depending on age, gender, and other factors. However, a healthy range for adults is typically between 12 and 16 grams per deciliter (g/dL) for women and 13.5 to 17.5 g/dL for men.

Low hemoglobin levels are generally considered to be below these normal ranges. Mildly low levels (between 10 and 12 g/dL for women and 11 to 13.5 g/dL for men) may not cause symptoms. However, more severe drops in hemoglobin levels can lead to physical symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and headaches.

Low hemoglobin levels can sometimes be hazardous, with levels below 7 g/dL considered critically low and potentially life-threatening.

Low hemoglobin levels in pregnancy

Low hemoglobin levels are prevalent during pregnancy due to an increased blood volume and need for iron. If left untreated, low hemoglobin levels during pregnancy can lead to complications such as preterm birth and low birth weight.

Low hemoglobin treatment and prevention

Preventing low hemoglobin levels is essential in maintaining overall health and well-being. One of the best ways to avoid low hemoglobin is to eat a healthy diet featuring nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, and folate. Iron-rich foods include red meat, fish, poultry, beans, and leafy greens, while vitamin B12 is plentiful in meat, fish, and dairy products.

A bowl full of fresh spinach rich in iron.

Ways to manage low hemoglobin levels

There are several ways to manage those diagnosed with low hemoglobin levels. A healthcare provider may recommend monitoring iron and vitamin levels and making dietary adjustments to ensure they get the necessary nutrients.

Person With Bunch Medication Pills on Hand

Doctors may recommend aggressive treatments for severely low hemoglobin levels, such as iron supplements, vitamin B12 injections, or intravenous iron therapy. Sometimes, blood transfusions may also be necessary to raise hemoglobin levels quickly.

Treatment with Supplements and Iron IV

Depending on their causes, several treatment options can help manage low hemoglobin levels. In cases of iron-deficiency anemia, the iron stores in the body may need replenishing with iron supplements an Iron IV. People with vitamin-deficiency anemia may need vitamin B12 injections or supplements.

Medications are available for prescription to treat long-term conditions responsible for low hemoglobin levels.

two girls getting an IV treatment

In more severe cases, hemoglobin levels may need to be raised quickly through blood transfusions. In a blood transfusion, red blood cells from a donor are given to a patient to raise the patient’s hemoglobin level at a rapid pace.

Final thoughts

Low hemoglobin levels can significantly affect health and well-being, leading to physical symptoms and possible health problems. Low hemoglobin can be hard to deal with, but the proper diagnosis and treatment can handle many cases well. To stay healthy and strong, eating well, taking care of chronic conditions, and working with a healthcare provider to track and treat low hemoglobin levels are vital.

At-Home Iron Infusion With Drip Hydration in

Iron IV therapy is an efficient and convenient way to increase your iron levels quickly and effectively. With Drip Hydration's at-home treatment option, our team will come to your location to administer the IV, whether that be your home or office. You will be able to relax and carry on with your daily activities, while we take care of the rest.

Contact Drip Hydration today and schedule your appointment, our experienced team is here to help you achieve optimal iron levels and improve your overall health.

Iron IV  Infusion - Frequently Asked Questions

What is Iron infusion?

Iron IV Infusion is a therapy where an enriched saline bag with iron and other vitamins is intravenously administered.

Why would a patient need an iron infusion?

Patients typically need an iron infusion to correct low blood iron levels, although infusions may also be given in advance of a medical procedure. There are many potential reasons a patient might have low blood iron, including illness, certain medical conditions, side effects from other treatments, inability to absorb adequate iron from diet or supplements, and more.

How to prepare for an iron infusion

The most significant preparation required for an iron infusion is to ensure you set aside enough time for treatment. Unlike some procedures, there is no need to fast prior to this procedure.

  • Iron infusions may take 3 or 4 hours, so bring a book, a game, music or podcasts, a computer, or sit near your TV so you can stay occupied during treatment.
  • Eat breakfast, stay hydrated, and take your medication as normal unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may also want to consider having a blanket on hand if you get cold easily.

What happens during an iron infusion?

A nurse will arrive at your location at your appointment time with the necessary equipment for your infusion. They will then administer a test dose via a needle and catheter to ensure that you do not have an allergic reaction to the ingredients in the infusion.

After your test dose, your infusion will begin. This process typically takes several hours. Following your infusion, you can resume activities as normal unless otherwise instructed.

How long does an iron infusion take?

An iron infusion typically takes 3 – 4 hours. Many patients require multiple infusions over time to correct their iron levels. Your doctor will determine the best course of treatment for your needs.

What are the side effects of iron infusions?

There are several potential side effects of iron infusions. They are typically mild and resolve on their own shortly after treatment.

  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Temporary changes in your taste
  • Itchiness and rash
  • Increased or decreased blood pressure
  • Increased or decreased heart rate
  • Redness, swelling, or a burning sensation at the injection site

In addition to these, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to ingredients in the infusion. However, your test dose will help prevent this issue.

Which iron infusion is safest?

The safest iron infusion is administered by a trained and licensed medical professional. Before your treatment, they will administer a test dose to ensure you do not have an allergic reaction to any ingredients in the infusion.

Additionally, safe IV providers will store and handle ingredients and equipment properly to help prevent infections and other complications.

Can you get an iron infusion during pregnancy?

Yes. A doctor may order an iron IV infusion for pregnant women if necessary, typically during the second or third trimester.

What are the risks involved with iron infusion?

Iron infusions are a safe procedure when administered by a licensed and trained healthcare professional. However, iron infusions are a minimally invasive procedure that comes with some potential risks.

Risks of IV treatment in general include:

  • Air embolism
  • Blood clots
  • Vein damage
  • Chance of infection at the injection site

In addition to the risks associated with IV treatments, iron infusions may also cause an allergic reaction due to ingredient(s) in the treatment.

Who administers the therapy?

One of our licensed clinicians will perform the Iron IV Therapy.

How quickly does an iron infusion work?

It depends on the patient’s circumstances. Some people feel better shortly after their first infusion. Those who need multiple infusions to correct low iron levels may start feeling better after a week or more.

How long will an iron infusion last?

The iron infusion itself typically takes about three hours to administer. Following treatment, an infusion may last days, weeks, or months depending on individual circumstances.

Are iron infusions painful?

Iron infusions are a largely painless medical procedure. Patients may experience a brief pinching sensation as the needle is inserted into the vein. Some patients report temporary side effects such as headaches and nausea following treatment.

How many times do I need an iron infusion?

The exact number of infusions will depend on your situation. Your doctor will assess your needs and develop a treatment plan to effectively correct low iron levels.

Do iron infusions make you gain weight?

No, iron infusions do not make you gain weight. One study found that infusions actually caused participants to lose weight.

What is the average cost of an iron infusion?

Iron infusions may cost anywhere between $400 to $4000. The exact cost will depend on variables such as the type of iron used, how many infusions you need, where you get treatment, whether your insurance covers treatments, and other factors.

Is an iron infusion better than a blood transfusion?

Both an iron infusion and blood transfusion aim to restore low iron levels, whether due to a medical condition, severe injury, in preparation for surgery, or other reasons. Both methods are effective ways to restore low iron levels.

  • A blood transfusion delivers new, donated blood into your body
  • An iron infusion contains only iron and saline solution

Your doctor can help determine which is best for your needs.

What iron level requires an iron infusion?

This depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of anemia you have, whether or not you are pregnant, and other factors.

If you notice symptoms of low iron, it’s important to visit a doctor. They will be able to determine whether an iron infusion is right for you.

Can you feel worse after an iron infusion?

There are some minor side effects that can occur during or after an iron infusion, such as headaches, nausea, and muscle aches. However, these are temporary and resolve quickly after treatment, after which you should feel the benefits of normal iron levels.


[1] Farid Y. - Biochemistry, Hemoglobin Synthesis.;

[2] Turner J. - Anemia;