Health Glossary

Meaning of MCV and Importance of it to body

MCV stands for mean corpuscular volume, also known as mean cell volume. In simpler terms, MCV describes the average size of an RBC.
Author Dr. Jacky Lio
Date 2021-07-16
Updated on 2021-07-21
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What is MCV? What could cause a low or a high MCV count? What risks are expected with a low or a high MCV count? What can I do to maintain my MCV level?

What is MCV?

It is calculated along with the blood cell count of RBC, WBC and platelets and is used for diagnosing a wide range of diseases. The MCV value is either low or high. A high MCV value is often referred to as a case of Macrocytosis, and a case of low MCV value is called Microcytosis. Macrocytosis means large RBCs in a blood sample, and Microcytosis indicates small RBCs in a blood sample. MCV is measured as a part of your CBC.

MCV Ranges

Normal MCV Low MCV High MCV
Male 80 – 100 < 80 > 100
Female 80 – 96  < 80 > 96

What could cause a low or a high MCV count?

MCV usually increases with age, however in some cases, results may show an increase in MCV value due to certain causes. The general factors that result in a rather high MCV value in a CBC test are vitamin B12 deficiency, folate(vitamin B9) deficiency, heavy alcohol consumption, liver diseases, certain chemotherapeutic drugs, hypothyroidism, some anemias, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc. However, the cases of severely high MCV value are mostly caused by folate deficiency and vitamin B12 deficiency. 

Alternatively, some main causes of low MCV count are iron deficiency, anaemia of chronic diseases, lead poisoning, thalassemia (an inherited blood disorder that causes your body to have less hemoglobin than normal).

What risks are expected with a low or a high MCV count?

When a person has an MCV level below 80 fl, it could suggest they have microcytic anemia. Microcytic anemia is a type of anemia in which red blood cells are smaller than usual. If someone has a high MCV level, their red blood cells are larger than usual, and they have macrocytic anemia. Macrocytosis occurs in people with an MCV level higher than 100 fl. Megaloblastic anemia is a type of macrocytic anemia.

If your CBC test shows a low MCV level then it’s possible you might face some complications. It can be random from pale or yellowish skin, breathing problems, chest pain while staying active, weakness, fast heartbeat, hair loss and leg cramps etc. Similar are the complications in case of a high MCV value. You might face the risk of random stomach problems, nauseous feeling, depressive thoughts, swollen tongue, numbness, muscle weakness, heartburn and weight loss in case of a high MCV value in your CBC test.

What can I do to maintain my MCV level?

Low MCH values are often caused by iron deficiency anemia. Typically, this condition can be treated with lifestyle changes including consuming foods rich in iron as well as taking iron supplements. . Increasing the intake of foods that have a lot of fibre in it is also really helpful in maintaining MCV levels, as it will help in the intestinal absorption of iron. In the rare case that your low MCH value is caused by thalassemia, you may require blood transfusions if your symptoms are severe.

High MCH values caused by a deficiency of the vitamins B-12 or folate can also often be treated with changes to your lifestyle that include dietary modifications and supplements, or injectable vitamin B-12.

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