Hemoglobin is the most important component of red blood cells. It is composed of a protein called heme, which binds oxygen. In the lungs, oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide.
Abnormalities of an individual's hemoglobin value can indicate defects in the normal balance between red blood cell production and destruction. Both low and high values can indicate disease states.
Review Date 2/18/2018
Updated by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.