Red blood cells are the majority of cells in our body and are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the tissues. When red blood cells fail or there are not too many, what is known as anemia occurs. When these cells increase in size, it is known as macrocytosis and is defined as the increase in their mean corpuscular volume (MCV), which is usually less than 100 MCV. One of the causes of increased red blood cells is alcoholism, although it can also be due to a lack of vitamin B12 or folic acid. When there is an increase in these, it also usually causes anemia. This FastlyHealarticle explains what it means to have large red blood cells.
Mean corpuscular volume (MCV)
First, you have to explain what is considered a giant red blood cell. The mean corpuscular volume (MCV) is a parameter used in the study of blood that measures the volume of erythrocytes (red blood cells) and indicates the average size of the red blood cells.
It is calculated using the formula VCM = (Hct / RBC) x 10. In this way, Hct is the percentage of hematocrits (cells that carry oxygen, red blood cells, concerning the total volume of blood) and RBC that are red blood cells (erythrocytes ) proper, which are counted by millions of cells in each microliter. The division of both is multiplied by ten, and the mean corpuscular volume is obtained.
Parameters between 88 and 100 fL (femtoliters per red blood cell) are normal values, but they must be differentiated by sex. For example, normal MCV values are usually 87 + 7 fL (femtoliters) in men and 90 + 9 fL in women. Macrocytosis will occur when the CV is higher. It is often said to be 100, but in men, an MCV of 98 could also be considered macrocytosis.
People with significant differences in the size of their red blood cells have what is known as anisocytosis, which means they have uneven cells.
Why do red blood cells increase in size, and what are the consequences?
Usually, a macrocytosis or increase in red blood cells is caused by a nutritional deficit in which vitamin B12 or folic acid is lacking. They are the two leading causes of this increase in cells.
However, the deficit of these nutrients is not only caused by diet; there are also other factors such as hereditary diseases, for example, pernicious anemia. In this case, an essential protein called intrinsic factor is missing in the intestine, responsible for adequately absorbing vitamin B12. What vitamin B12 does in our body is that it helps replenish the folate required by the body to produce red blood cells. Therefore, a decrease in this vitamin causes red blood cells to decrease, and they increase in size.
There are specific pathologies that can worsen or even cause an increase in red blood cells, such as liver disorders. They can also be gastrointestinal diseases that cause poor absorption of vitamin B12, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. Alcoholism is also a factor, and a very high rate of alcohol can produce continuous macrocytosis.
Other causes may include blood or bone marrow disorders that cause cell development problems, such as leukemia, myelodysplasia, myelofibrosis, or, as we have seen, pernicious anemia.
Usually, when you have large red blood cells, it means a decrease in vitamin B12 or folic acid, as we have seen. However, it may be the case that there are large red blood cells but normal B12 levels. This can be due to alcoholism or some medications used to treat cancer or rheumatic or immune diseases.
What if you have the most significant red blood cells?
Large red blood cells can cause pernicious anemia, a type of anemia characterized by macrocytosis. The abnormality of the red blood cells causes the bone marrow not to produce as many cells, and even some die earlier than expected.
Symptoms caused by having large red blood cells
When anemia occurs due to macrocytosis, symptoms may occur or be asymptomatic. The symptoms that may appear are:
- Extreme tiredness and fatigue.
- Feeling of lack of energy.
- Muscular weakness.
- Tingling in some parts of the body is known as paresthesia.
- It can cause depression or a low mood.
- Sometimes the tongue turns red and can hurt.
- Comprehension or even memory problems.
In the case of macrocytosis caused by alcoholism, bleeding can also occur due to damage to the liver. This organ usually produces proteins that help blood clot, but if it is damaged, it will not work correctly.
Diagnosis and treatment for large red blood cells
To confirm macrocytosis, a blood test is required that measures the concentration of red blood cells in the blood, the size and volume, and whether or not they vary.
To treat macrocytosis, the underlying causes must be taken into account; that is, if there is a low level of vitamin B12 or folic acid, supplements will be administered, or an attempt will be made to correct the cause, such as diet. If the reason is alcoholism, this problem will have to be treated at its roots, and specific treatment for nutrient deficiencies will be administered.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
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I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.