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A hemoglobin electrophoresis test is a blood test done to check the different types of hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen.
The most common types of normal hemoglobin are:
This is the most common type of hemoglobin found normally in adults. Some diseases, such as severe forms of thalassemia, may cause hemoglobin A levels to be low and hemoglobin F levels to be high.
This type is normally found in fetuses and newborn babies. Hemoglobin F is replaced by hemoglobin A (adult hemoglobin) shortly after birth; only very small amounts of hemoglobin F are made after birth. Some diseases, such as sickle cell disease, aplastic anemia, and leukemia, have abnormal types of hemoglobin and higher amounts of hemoglobin F.
This is a normal type of hemoglobin found in small amounts in adults.
There are more than 350 types of abnormal hemoglobin.footnote 1 The most common are:
This type of hemoglobin is present in sickle cell disease.
This type of hemoglobin does not carry oxygen well.
This type of hemoglobin is found in people of Southeast Asian descent.
This type of hemoglobin is present in some sickle cell disorders.
Hemoglobin S and hemoglobin C are the most common types of abnormal hemoglobin that may be found by an electrophoresis test.
Electrophoresis uses an electrical current to separate normal and abnormal types of hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin types have different electrical charges and move at different speeds. The amount of each hemoglobin type in the current is measured.
An abnormal amount of normal hemoglobin or an abnormal type of hemoglobin in the blood may mean that a disease is present. Abnormal hemoglobin types may be present without any other symptoms, may cause mild diseases that do not have symptoms, or cause diseases that can be life-threatening. For example, hemoglobin S is found in sickle cell disease, which is a serious abnormality of the blood and causes serious problems.
Hemoglobin electrophoresis is done to:
Tell your doctor if you are getting iron therapy for iron deficiency anemia.
A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.
When a blood sample is taken, you may feel nothing at all from the needle. Or you might feel a quick sting or pinch.
There is very little chance of having a problem from this test. When a blood sample is taken, a small bruise may form at the site.
Results are ready in several days.
Each lab has a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should show the range that your lab uses for each test. The normal range is just a guide. Your doctor will also look at your results based on your age, health, and other factors. A value that isn't in the normal range may still be normal for you.
CitationsFischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Current as of: September 8, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: September 8, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
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