What are the causes of a low red blood cell count?

Answer

Red blood cells perform the very important role of delivering oxygen to the body's tissues.

First, oxygen from the lungs binds to the iron-rich molecule hemoglobin. It is then released throughout the body via the circulatory system. The amount of oxygen that reaches your body's tissues is highly dependent on the concentration of red blood cells in your blood stream. The number of red blood cells you have in your blood can be determined by a red blood cell count test. The standard range of results is 4.32 to 5.72 million cells per microliter of blood for males and 3.9 to 5.03 million cells per microliter of blood for females.

If your red blood count results are below the standard range, it may be due to:

  • Anemia
  • Bone marrow failure
  • Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Multiple myeloma (cancer of plasma cells)
  • An erythropoietin deficiency
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Hemolysis (red blood cell destruction) due to transfusions
  • Blood vessel injury
  • Malnutrition
  • Nutritional deficiencies: iron, copper, folate, vitamins B6 and B12
  • Medications: chemotherapy drugs, chloramphenicol, hydantoins, quinidine
  • Pregnancy.

The cause of low blood count and the course of treatment are best determined by a medical provider.
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Red blood cells perform the very important role of delivering oxygen to the body's tissues.

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