Primus Pathology Laboratory

Iron Test

Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Dr. Neeraj Gujar


Iron test, also known as Iron indices, helps to check your iron levels. Iron tests are used to measure the presence of different substances in your blood. Iron, a mineral, is essential for red blood cell production. Your lungs carry oxygen to your body through red blood cells. Iron is essential for the health of your bones, muscles, and organs. High or low iron levels can lead to serious health problems.

There are many types of iron tests:

  • Serum Iron Test which measures iron levels in the blood
  • The Transferrin Test measures the transferrin protein, which moves iron throughout your body.
  • The total iron-binding potential (TIBC) is a measure of how iron attaches in blood to transferrin or other proteins.
  • The ferritin blood test measures the amount of iron in the body.

Often, all or some of these tests can be ordered simultaneously.

Why Test Is Done?

Iron tests are used most often to check:

  • If your iron levels are low, it could be a sign that you have anemia.
  • Different types of anemia can be diagnosed
  • If you have hemochromatosis. This rare genetic disorder causes excessive iron buildup in the body.
  • If iron deficiencies (low iron levels), or excess iron (high Iron levels) treatments are effective.

When To Get Tested?

If you experience symptoms such as low iron levels or high iron levels, you may need to have your iron tested.

Iron levels that are too low can lead to:

  • Pale skin
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Breathing problems

Iron levels that are too high can cause symptoms such as:

  • Joint pain
  • Energy deficiency
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bronzing or darkening the skin
  • Heart problems
  • Lack of sex drive

As your condition worsens, these symptoms will get worse.

Also Read: What is Prothrombin Time & International Normalized Ratio (PT-INR) Test?

lady unwell with headache

Signs of Anemia

In case of anemia because of iron deficiency, you can see the following early symptoms:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness

As your condition worsens, you may experience other symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • Concentration difficulties
  • Mouth sores on the tongue
  • Grumpiness
  • Misshapen nails
  • Pica is the compulsion to consume non-food items such as paper and ice chips

How To Get Tested?

Your doctor may ask you to fast (no eating or drinking) for 12 hours before your test. The test is generally done in the morning. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about how to prepare.

During the Test

A small needle is used by a health professional to take blood from a vein on your arm. Once the needle has been inserted, some blood will be taken and stored in a vial or test tube. The needle may cause a slight stinging sensation when it is inserted or removed. It usually takes less than five minutes.

After The Test

A blood test is not a risky procedure. Although you may feel a little bit of pain or bruise around the site where the needle was inserted, most symptoms disappear quickly.

Test Results

The concentration of serum iron in the blood is measured in micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL). These are the normal levels for a serum-iron test:

  • Iron: 60-170 mg/dL
  • Transferrin saturation: 25 to 35 percent
  • Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), 240-450 mcg/dL

The blood protein transferrin transports iron throughout the body. Your doctor can determine if your body has too much or too low iron by looking at the iron content of your transferrin proteins.

TIBC is a measurement of how efficiently transferrin proteins transport iron around your body.

Blood tube being tested for anemia

Interpreting Results

You may have an iron deficiency if you get one or more iron tests that show low iron levels.

  • Anemia caused by iron deficiency is a common form of anemia. Anemia refers to a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells.
  • Another type of anemia
  • Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that causes the body not to produce enough healthy red blood cells.

You may have an iron deficiency if you get more than one iron test result that shows high iron levels.

  • Hemochromatosis is a condition that results in too much iron building up in the body.
  • Lead poisoning
  • Liver disease

Iron supplements, diet, medications, and/or any other therapy can treat most conditions that are iron deficient or excessive.

Your iron test results may not be normal. This does not necessarily indicate that you need treatment. Iron levels can be affected by certain medications, such as birth control pills or estrogen treatments. Women may have lower iron levels during their periods.

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your results.

Final Takeaway

An iron test is ordered when you show symptoms of high or low iron levels. Your health care provider may order other blood tests to help check your iron levels. These include:

In case of abnormal results, make sure that you follow the treatment properly. Abnormal levels for a long duration can lead to some very severe health complications. Also, make sure that you improve your lifestyle and follow tips to increase iron levels or control iron levels in your body.


How do you test for iron deficiency?

Iron-deficiency anemia is diagnosed through a complete blood count (CBC) test. Additional tests may be required to evaluate the levels of serum ferritin, iron, total iron-binding capacity, and/or transferrin.

What drink is high in iron?

Juices like beetroot juice, pumpkin juice, prune juice, and spinach juice are rich in plant-based iron sources.

How can I increase my iron naturally?

Your body absorbs two to three times more iron from animal sources than from plants. However, options including meat and vegetables are:

  • Red meat, pork, and poultry
  • Seafood
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dried fruit, such as raisins, cashews, and apricots
  • Iron-fortified cereals, bread, and pasta


by Dr. Neeraj Gujar

Dr. Neeraj Gujar has done his M.D. in Pathology from Government Medical College. He has worked at various organisations such as Breach Candy Hospital and Tata Memorial Hospital along with many other private organisations. During his working career, he realised the pressing need for exceptional quality diagnostic services. A diagnostic centre that can consistently give accurate results verified by a consultant doctor (M.D. Pathologist) on which your doctor can depend. This has been the founding principle of Primus Pathology and Diagnostics.

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