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What is MCV in Blood Tests and how to Measure its Levels?

Mean corpuscular volume (MCV) measures the red blood cell size. This test is usually part of a complete blood count to analyse different blood components, including platelets and white blood cells.

Your doctor may order an MCV test to confirm if you have anaemia. Different levels of MCV can diagnose specific anaemia types.

What is MCV in a blood test?

The red blood cells have several characteristics that doctors can measure with specific indicators. Your doctor can use MCV to indicate the average size and volume of red blood cells.

Other indicators from the red blood cells include:

  • Mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH)

MCH is the average level of haemoglobin in the red blood cell.

  • Mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration (MCHC)

MCHC is the average haemoglobin concentration in the red blood cells

  • Red cell distribution width (RDW)

RDW measures the differences in the size of red blood cells

These measurements are vital when diagnosing specific types of anaemia and other health issues.

Early signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling tired or weak than usual
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
  • Feeling irritable
  • Headaches
  • Problems thinking or concentrating
  • Loss of appetite

When anemia progresses, other signs and symptoms are the following:

  • Pale skin color
  • Blue color to the white part of eyes
  • Shortness of breath with mild activity or at rest
  • Nails which break easily
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Desire to eat ice or other non-food items, including dirt
  • Sore or unusual red tongue
  • Increased or unusual menstrual bleeding
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness when standing up

Purpose of performing a MCV Blood Test

Mean corpuscular volume or MCV can be measured as part of complete blood count or CBC. It is a part of routine bloodwork or as part of diagnosis, treatment and follow-up of different medical conditions.

MCV blood tests can be used to:

  • Assess for anemia in people having symptoms such as – lightheadedness, pale skin and fatigue
  • Estimate of prognosis in people having medical conditions
  • Distinguish between different kinds of anemia
  • Evaluate blood abnormalities such as platelet count or abnormal white blood cells
  • Follow-up on treatment of other medical conditions

When an MCV blood test is done

An MCV blood test is routinely performed during a CBC. Some changes in the MCV might be secondary due to various conditions. For example, the MCV is low in iron deficiency anemia. In that case, you may require additional tests for the deficiency of iron. The MCV can even change in conditions such as deficiency of vitamin B12, folate or liver disease.

What happens during the MCV level blood test?

You do not need special preparations for the MCV blood test. The healthcare provider will draw a blood sample from your vein during the test. It may cause slight pain and a stinging sensation.

What are the risks?

Drawing a blood sample has a few risks, but people differ, so blood collecting may be straightforward and painless for many people. The side effects of the blood collection for an MCV test include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Bruising
  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding

Why is the MCV measurement necessary?

A doctor may recommend an MCV level check if you present the following symptoms.

  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Fatigue
  • Cold intolerance
  • Jaundice
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bleeding or bruising easily
  • Looking paler than usual

The symptoms above may indicate conditions affecting the size of red blood cells. In some cases, the cells become larger or smaller than usual.

When red blood cells are smaller than usual, the risk of microcytic anaemia is higher, but larger red blood cells indicate macrocytic anaemia.

What is the normal MCV level?

The normal MCV level in adults is 80 – 100 femtoliters (fl). The specific levels for different sexes and ages are:

12 – 18 years Adults
Females 90fl 90fl
Males 88fl 90fl

Children between 6 to 12 years have a normal MCV level of 86fl. MCV results may be different among labs, so a result may be slightly higher or lower. MCV value is usually stable though it rises slowly with age. Let’s find out MCV value of both men and women according to their age.




Under 10 82.4 fl 81.9 fl
10 to 19 87.6 fl 87.3 fl
20 to 29 90.0 fl 89.8 fl
30 to 39 90.4 fl 90.4 fl
40 to 49 91.0 fl 91.3 fl
50 to 59 91.1 fl 92.0 fl
60 to 69 91.6 fl 92.5 fl
70 to 79 92.1 fl 93.0 fl
80 to 88 92.5 fl 93.6 fl

Low MCV level

When the MCV level is below 80fl, it may indicate microcytic anaemia. This type of anaemia is where the red blood cells are lower than usual. The condition may result from iron deficiency from an underlying health issue or factors like medications or diet.

Common causes of iron deficiency

  • Blood loss

Bleeding may occur from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract when colon cancer develops or from the intake of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin. People experiencing heavy periods may also have iron deficiency.

  • Diet

People that eat a plant-based diet or an omnivorous diet with limited iron supply may need iron supplements.

  • Reduced iron absorption

Weight loss surgery, Helicobacter pylori infection, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis can affect iron absorption.

  • Pregnancy

Pregnant women may need iron supplements because the body requires more iron for optimal foetal development.


In this condition, the body doesn’t produce sufficient normal haemoglobin. Thalassemia is a genetic condition inherited from a parent. It can range from mild to severe. The anaemia symptoms are mild or don’t show symptoms of mild thalassemia.

People with severe thalassemia may need regular red blood transfusions.

High MCV level

Knowing what is MCV in blood tests the UK is very important. If the MCV level is above 100fl, the red blood cells are larger than usual, indicating macrocytic anaemia. Megaloblastic anaemia is macrocytic anaemia that may result from folate (vitamin B9) are cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency.

Autoimmune and dietary factors

The following may result in vitamin B12 deficiency.

  • Vegan diet

Vegan diets do not include animal meals that contain natural forms of vitamin B12. Vegans and people with vitamin B12 deficiency can take supplements or vitamin B12-fortified foods.

  • Autoimmune gastritis

This inflammatory condition affects the stomach, particularly the parietal cells that produce intrinsic factors. If these intrinsic factors are absent, vitamin B12 cannot enter the bloodstream through the distal small intestine. Iron infusions and vitamin B12 injections can treat this deficiency.

Other causes

Factors that can contribute to vitamin B9 and vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Tapeworm
  • Chest feeding or breastfeeding
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Consuming excess alcohol
  • Cancer treatment medications

What you can expect from the test

MVC blood test requires conducting a venous blood draw. This test can be performing at any time during the day. You do not have to do fasting or restrict your activity before the test.

Side effects are generally mild and include:

  • Infection
  • Hematoma (bruising)
  • Bleeding

When you should contact the doctor about your MCV levels

If you always feel cold or tired, it is a possible cause of anaemia. Ensure you contact your doctor if you experience symptoms of anaemia. The doctor may ask about your family medical history, as conditions like Crohn’s disease and thalassemia which cause anaemia run in families.

You can visit Private Blood Tests London for your MCV level test and any blood test London. Call us today on 020 7183 0244 for an appointment for your blood test or to ask any blood test-related questions like.