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Hemoglobin C

Does this test have other names?

Hemoglobin C blood test, hemoglobin electrophoresis, Hgb electrophoresis

What is this test?

Hemoglobin C is a blood test used to find out if you have hemoglobin C disease, a blood disorder passed on to you from your parents. It causes your red blood cells to have hemoglobin C instead of the hemoglobin A found in most people. In the blood, hemoglobin C forms crystals and makes the blood cells less flexible. This causes your blood to not flow well. Hemoglobin C also causes your red blood cells to break more easily, and they don't live as long as they should.

Hemoglobin C causes a form of hemolytic anemia, much like sickle cell anemia. This means the red blood cells are destroyed and removed from the bloodstream before their normal life span is over. This can lead to a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells in your blood. 

Why do I need this test?

In the U.S., 43 states have mandatory screening for sickle-type hemoglobin disorders in newborns, so many people know whether they have one of these diseases. Still, hemoglobin C disease often has no symptoms, and some people are not diagnosed until adulthood.

Symptoms of this disorder may include joint pain, gallstones, and symptoms related to anemia, such as tiredness, muscle and joint pain, irregular heartbeat, and other heart problems. In these cases, a health care provider may test for the disease.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Along with hemoglobin electrophoresis, which identifies the type and amount of hemoglobin in your blood, a health care provider may do other blood tests. These may include a complete blood cell count, or CBC, and iron tests. 

What do my test results mean?

A result for a lab test may be affected by many things, including the method the laboratory uses to do the test. If your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

If you have both genes for hemoglobin C disease – one from each parent – your blood may have as much as 100 percent hemoglobin C in place of hemoglobin A. If you have only one of the genes for hemoglobin C, levels of hemoglobin C in your blood will likely be 35 percent or lower. 

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

In some cases, it can be difficult to tell if a person has hemoglobin C disease or both hemoglobin C disease and another blood disorder called thalassemia. In these cases, blood testing of both parents may be needed to help with diagnosis.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test.