Iron Tests

Iron Tests

Iron tests are a group of tests used to measure the amount of iron in a person's body. Iron is a mineral essential for producing red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron tests are conducted to find out if a person has too much iron, too little, or if their levels are normal.

Preparing for an Iron Test

To prepare for an iron test, your health care provider will advise you not to take any iron supplements or multivitamins for a few days prior to the test. Depending on which type of iron test you receive, you may also need to avoid certain foods that could interfere with the accuracy of the results. Your health care provider will provide specific instructions for you to follow.

Types of Iron Tests

There are three main types of iron tests, including:

  • Serum iron test – this is used to measure the level of iron in the bloodstream.
  • Transferrin test – this is used to measure the level of transferrin, a protein that carries iron in the bloodstream.
  • Ferritin test – this is used to measure the amount of ferritin, which is a protein that allows the body to store iron.

Risks of Iron Tests

Iron tests are generally safe and don’t carry any risks. Some people may feel slight discomfort in the arm where the blood sample was taken, but this should pass quickly.

Why Is an Iron Test Done?

Iron tests are ordered by health care providers to help diagnose and/or monitor conditions that affect the amount of iron in the body. These conditions may include iron-deficiency anemia, anemia of chronic disease, and hemochromatosis, which is a disorder in which the body absorbs too much iron.

When Is an Iron Test Performed?

An iron test is usually done when a person has symptoms that could be related to iron deficiency or excess. Plus, people may have to have their iron levels checked periodically if they have been diagnosed with iron-related disorders.

Interpreting the Test Results

Results from iron tests typically come back within a few days and are evaluated by a health care provider. According to the research, the normal range of iron in the blood is 25–175 micrograms/deciliter (mcg/dL). People who have less than 25 mcg/dL may have iron-deficiency anemia, while those with more than 175 mcg/dL may have hemochromatosis. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and will be determined by a health care provider.