What is an iron test?
An iron test is a diagnostic test that detects several elements in the blood to monitor iron levels. Iron is a mineral that is required for the formation of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are in charge of transferring oxygen from the lungs to the other parts of the body. Iron is also necessary for normal muscle, bone marrow, and organ functions. An increase or decrease in the level of iron can cause major health concerns.
Following are the several types of iron testing:
The serum iron test
This test determines the quantity of iron in the blood.
The transferrin test
This test analyzes transferrin, a protein that transports iron throughout the body.
Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC)
This test measures how efficiently iron binds to transferrin and other proteins in the blood.
The ferritin blood test
This test determines how much iron is stored in the body.
Some of these tests are often prescribed together.
Other names: Fe tests and iron indices
What are Iron tests used for?
Iron tests are used to:
- Diagnose different types of anemia.
- Check if the iron levels are too low, (it can be due to anemia).
- Check if the iron levels are too high, which could be a sign of hemochromatosis. This rare genetic disorder causes too much iron to build up in the body.
- Check if treatments for iron deficiency are working or not.
Why do I need an iron test?
One might need to take this test when they have symptoms of iron deficiency such as:
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
Too much iron can cause the following symptoms:
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
What happens during an iron test?
During an iron test, the doctor will use a tiny needle to draw blood from a vein in the arm. After the insertion of the needle, a small quantity of blood will be collected in a test tube or vial. When the needle goes in or out, one may feel a slight sting or discomfort. This normally takes five to ten minutes.
How to prepare for the test?
Your doctor may instruct you whether you should eat and drink or not for 12 hours before your test. The test is often done in the morning. If you have concerns about preparing for your test, then speak with your doctor.
Are there any risks associated with iron tests?
No, having a blood test has no major risk. However, one may experience some discomfort or bruising where the needle was inserted, but this symptom goes away soon.
Understanding the results
If one or more iron test results suggest that your iron levels are too low, you might have:
- Iron deficiency anemia is a very common type of anemia. Anemia is a condition in which the body does not produce enough red blood cells.
- Other kinds of anemia
- Thalassemia is a genetic blood condition that causes the body to produce fewer healthy red blood cells than normal.
If one or more iron test results reveal that your iron levels are abnormally high, you may have:
Most problems caused by insufficient or excessive iron can be easily managed with iron supplements, diet, medications, or surgery.
If your iron test results are abnormal, this does not always indicate that you have a medical issue that requires treatment. Some medications, such as birth control pills and estrogen therapies, might have an impact on iron levels. Women's iron levels may also be decreased during their menstrual periods. If you have any concerns about your results, speak with your doctor.
Important information to understand about iron tests?
After the iron test, some other blood tests may be ordered by your doctor to aid in assessing your iron levels. These are some examples: