By reading the values of hematocrit level, you can know the proportion of RBC (Red Blood Corpuscles) in the blood. In the given blood sample, the level of hematorcit indicates the percentage of RBC. Any blood sample contains red blood cells (RBC) and white blood cells (WBC). Very often, the reading is recorded automatically in the machine or equipment that performs blood testing.
By what ways it can be measured?
You can get the level of hematocrit in the complete blood count testing procedure. It also signifies the hemoglobin concentration in the blood sample. Further the CBC test also indicates the reading of 3 major blood cell lines.
Alternatively you can also use the simple method of “spun hematocrit” testing in centrifugal tube. The collected blood sample is dropped into the capillary tube which is sealed with wax to prevent spilling.
Then it is placed in centrifuge and on rotation, the red blood cells gets collected at the bottom of the capillary tube forming a clear red column or line. Next is the white blood cell which is observed in the form of straw color. You need to write down the height of the red blood cells column. Then divide this value by the total capillary tube column. The answer obtained gives the value of hematocrit level or red blood cell percentage in the total blood.
What is the normal hematocrit level?
For healthy male the hematocrit level would be ranging from 42-54% and for females the values are from 38-46% of the total blood volume. For infants it would be anywhere from 55% to 65% and the levels may vary for pregnant women from 30-45%. People who live in high altitude will have increased hematocrit level because of reduced supply of natural oxygen.
Significance of Low Hematocrit Level :
Low value of hematocrit in blood indicates that there is reduced percentage of RBC in the blood. It can be due to several reasons depending on the sex and age of the person concerned. Some of the possible reasons for low level of hematocrit are bleeding disorders like ulcer, colon cancer, anemia, sickle cell anemia, bone marrow cancer, low level of iron or B12 vitamin in blood, polydypsia, over-hydration (increased water content) and malnutrition.
Significance of High Level of Hematocrit :
Obviously, high level of the value indicates that the person has increased percentage of RBC in his blood. Some of the major causes include dehydration, smoking, living in high altitude, reduced oxygen supply, pulmonary fibrosis, congenital heart problem, increased production of RBC by bone marrow (polycythemia vera) and due to other disorders like COPD and sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Increased Hematocrit Level :
If a person has high level of RBC concentration in his blood, then he may experience the following symptoms. He may not be able to tolerate heat and he would have excess of sweating. Further there would be weakness and fatigue and sometimes bloody discharge in his stool.
Due to increased level of RBC in blood, the blood starts moving slowly and supplies reduced quantity of oxygen to the tissues and cells. This reaction would automatically trigger erythropoietin hormone to produce more number of RBC by the bone marrow which would further increase the value of hematocrit level. The person is prone to form blood clots and get heart disease and even stroke if left untreated.
Headache, body pain, intolerance to heat, rapid sweating, fever, irritation, rashes on the skin and fatigue are some of the major symptoms if the level of hematocrit is high. For some people, the skin color may visibly change dark after having warm shower or exposed to heat. There would be bluish spots on the skin anywhere in the body with irritation. There can be signs of shortness of breath, choking and weight loss. All these conditions may worsen the situation and the person should be immediately hospitalized for treatment.
People with very low hematocrit level are put on intravenous fluid for giving supplementary iron through blood transfusion. In case the person has high level of the value, he should start donating blood (blood letting) until the level attains normal value. By repeated blood testing, your doctor will monitor the condition and accordingly decide the course of treatment.