Iron is an essential mineral present in the hemoglobin, a protein molecule of blood. Without iron (in sufficient quantities) you would not be energetic or your vital organs may not function properly. It is the red blood cells or RBC that makes up hemoglobin of blood. It goes without saying that iron is required in proper levels in our blood for us to stay healthy.
Majority of iron content of the body is present in hemoglobin of RBC. Further it is also found in other proteins like ferritin of bone marrow and some of the body tissues. RBC do not live permanently they die and get replenished by fresh ones. After the death of RBC iron content gets deposited in the bone marrow and some organs like liver/spleen. Gradually bone marrow produces new RBC’s for which iron is supplied from the liver.
Iron is found naturally in food particles like leafy greens, meat and eggs. Women who are pregnant and those who are in the stage of puberty need more iron than normal adult. Even breastfeeding mothers need more iron in their blood than normal women. When compared with men, women are at increased risk of losing iron fast due to vaginal bleeding and other factors. Hence it is necessary to check the iron levels in blood regularly to prevent anemia and its effects.
Need For Iron Test :
You can know if you are anemic and you can also know whether you are healthy in the scale of nutrition by checking the iron level in your blood. You can also find out whether iron is getting properly metabolized in the body.
Any Preparation ?
You need not have to prepare anything for doing iron test. But the levels of iron can change throughout the day and is often the highest in the morning. So if you are planning to go for blood test it is wise to do in the morning. Testing for iron requires drawing blood sample. The nurse or lab technician would wrap a strong elastic band in your upper arm. Then she would look for a clear vein and clean the site before putting a needle into the vein, for drawing required amount of blood. After the procedure, she would gently remove the band and place a cotton ball on the site of piercing. You would feel nothing more than a small injection during the process.
Is There Any Risk ?
Blood serum test does not carry any risk. It would cause mild pain like a shot. In rare cases it can cause swelling on the site of injection.
- Iron levels (of normal range) may differ slightly from one lab to the other. So it is wise to consult your physician with the result who can give you right interpretation.
- Normal iron content in the blood can range anywhere from 12.5 to 31.3 mcmoles per dL for men and for women it can be 9.0 to 21.5 mcmoles/dL.
- For children iron level can be from 9.0 to 21.5 mcmol/dL.
Normal Iron Levels :
- Total iron binding capacity in blood TIBC can be from 250 to 450 mcg/dL and transferrin saturation level can be 25-35% in your blood.
- High levels of iron are dangerous since it can cause liver cirrhosis, liver failure and iron poisoning.
- Conditions and diseases that can cause changes in iron level
- The results obtained from blood serum can be useful to interpret many things. It gives the values for TIBC, serum iron and transferrin saturation level. High values of iron can be due to hemochromatosis (Iron overload).
Low level of iron in the hemoglobin of RBC can cause hemolytic anemia. Blood cells may not contain sufficient levels of oxygen carrying hb causing chronic fatigue, weakness, and cold hands/feet and breathing problems. Affected person may not be able to concentrate in his work at home/office. Often iron deficiency anemia is caused by not taking iron rich foods, heavy menstrual bleeding and pregnancy and bleeding disorders.
In this case iron levels in blood are normal, but ferritin is unusually high. This is a kind of blood disorder that is hereditary. Mild form of thalessemia often goes unnoticed and rectified. But major thalessemia is dangerous requiring emergency medical care. The baby looks pale, dizzy, and would suffer from chronic infections and will not have appetite. Many babies would not live for more than 2 years.
It is a kind of disorder that causes disruption in the body’s ability to use and absorb iron. This disorder is often inherited and is caused by defective gene mutation. The genes that are responsible for absorption of iron in the blood get affected. Treatment is given in the form of medication for binding iron molecules and by blood removal periodically.
Before Testing :
You should avoid taking contraceptive pills, drugs like corticotropin and chloramphenicol. If you are already taking iron or vitamin supplements you should not take it previous day. You are not fit to take test if you have sleeping problems or if you have had blood transfusion recently.
Symptoms Of Excess Of Iron In The Blood :
It includes joint pain, abdominal cramps, darkening of skin, heart problems, and fatigue and liver problems. Overload of iron can cause weight loss, reduced libido and muscle weakness.
Depending on the result of iron test and considering factors like your age and health condition, your doctor may ask you change your diet. You need to include iron rich foods like dark green leaves, red meats, eggs, beans, molasses and grains.
Ferritin and Its Significance :
- Ferritin is the protein that acts as a store-house of iron molecules. It releases iron whenever your body needs them. Transferrin is the name of protein that takes ferritin to the right spot. Very much like iron, low levels and high levels of ferritin can cause significant health issues.
- Low ferritin level can be caused due to menstrual bleeding (in excess), mal-absorption of iron problems and bleeding disorders.
- High volumes of ferritin can cause Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism and liver related problems. In severe cases, it can cause iron poisoning.