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Tests and Procedures

Iron (Blood)

Does this test have other names?

Serum Fe

What is this test?

This test measures the level of iron in your blood.

Iron is an essential trace element in your blood. It helps your body make healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your bloodstream.

Having too little or too much iron can lead to health problems. Too little iron in your body can cause a condition called anemia. When this happens, your blood doesn't have enough iron to make the number of red blood cells needed to provide the amount of oxygen your body needs.

Iron-deficiency anemia is most often caused by blood loss, such as after an injury or surgery, or because of heavy menstrual bleeding.

Too much iron can be caused by hemochromatosis. This is a genetic condition that causes your blood to absorb too much iron.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if your doctor suspects that you have too much or too little iron in your blood. Common symptoms of anemia include:

  • Headache

  • Weakness

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Trouble exercising because of shortness of breath

Less common symptoms of anemia are brittle nails, restless leg syndrome, and a sore tongue.

Signs and symptoms of too much iron include liver problems, weakness, fatigue, darkening of the skin, and joint pain.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may also order a total iron binding capacity test to measure the level of transferrin in your blood. Transferrin is a protein that carries iron from your digestive system to the cells in your body that need it.

Your doctor may also measure your level of ferritin, another protein that helps store iron in your body. He or she may also order a complete blood count, or CBC, to get the full picture of the parts of your blood.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

Results are given in micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL). Normal ranges of iron in the blood are 60 to 170 mcg/dL.

If your results are lower, it means you may have iron-deficiency anemia. Your doctor will confirm this with other tests.

If your results are higher, it means you may have hemochromatosis.

Too much iron in the blood can also be from taking too many iron supplements or iron-enriched multivitamins.

How is this test done?

The test requires a blood sample, which is drawn through a needle from a vein in your arm.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

Other factors aren't likely to affect your results.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test.

 

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