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Significance of Iron Blood Test Results

written by: Cyndi Root•edited by: Emma Lloyd•updated: 7/3/2010

Your physician may order an iron blood test during a complete, routine check of your blood. If you have unusual symptoms of feeling dizzy or pale, you may be experiencing an acute blood loss, which may or may not be visible to you. Iron blood tests results may be normal, higher or lower than normal.

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    Ferritin is a protein which binds to iron, a mineral in your body. Iron blood tests results quantifies how much iron is in your body. Normal values are 7-270 mcg/L, depending on the laboratory and whether the patient is a man, woman or child. High or low values are cause for concern and may indicate disease states. High levels or hematochrosis may be caused by cirrhosis, hepatitis, Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, arthritis or lupus. Low levels indicate a deficiency of iron due to heavy menstrual bleeding, poor diet, intestinal bleeding and other conditions.

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    Iron's Importance

    Iron is a metal, vital to proteins, enzymes, oxygen transportation, cell growth and differentiation, muscle and organ function. Most iron is used to transport oxygen to tissues, some to muscles and also for enzymes which catalyze other functions. Iron is used by the body and resupplied by nutrition. Iron deficiency is the number one nutritional disorder in the world according to The World Health Organization. Iron deficiency anemia and iron deficiency affects 30-80% of the world population. Most deficiencies are due to bleeding disorders, especially in the gastrointestinal tract, capillaries and veins. A subnormal blood test result will indicate one of these dangerous conditions exist, or infection or cancer. Barring those conditions, inadequate nutrition or malabsorption of iron is indicated.

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    Main Tests

    Serum ferritin radioimmunoassay is considered the test of choice for diagnosis and is helpful in indicating the amount of iron bound to transferrin in the blood (serum). Two values are important, the total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) and transferrin saturation, the percentage of transferrin bound to iron. When a decisive diagnosis is needed, a bone marrow aspiration test is completed, which involves taking a sample of fluid and cells.This test is necessary to detect abnormal red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and in the possible case of some anemias, leukemia, multiple myeloma, Hodgkin's or non-Hodgkins lymphoma, infections or tumors.

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    Other Tests

    Other tests include mean cell volume (MCV), transferritin saturation (TS), serum ferritin radioimmunoassay, red cell protoporphyrin (RCP), red cell volume distribution (RDW), and red cell ferritin (RCW). The test ordered will depend on the patient's history and symptoms and the degree of sensitivity and type of diagnosis needed. For instance, the serum ferritin is insufficient for possible inflammatory and liver diseases.

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    Symptoms of fatigue, paleness, irritability, increased heart rate may indicate that you need an iron test. Your physician will do a physical examination and a complete medical history. An iron test is usually ordered with a complete set of blood tests. Iron blood test results will indicate a normal, higher or lower than normal value quantity. A higher or lower value than normal may prompt your physician to order other tests. Normal values for men are 76- 198 mcg/L. For women, a normal range is 26-170 mcg/L. Barring a systemic problem like blood loss, your physician will likely advise you to increase your intake of iron rich foods and possibly take an iron supplement.