Serum Iron

What is serum iron?

Iron is an essential nutrient that is required for healthy red blood cell production.  A serum iron test measures the amount of iron in the blood. It is used alongside other iron tests to obtain a picture of your iron status.  Dietary and lifestyle changes can be helpful for both low and high levels of iron.

Why test serum iron?

Unless this is ordered as a retest or for a specific reason, we recommend ordering this as part of a health test.

Those who do not eat meat or seafood may have a lower intake of iron.  A diet low in iron, vitamin B12 and folate increases the risk of iron deficiency anemia (IDA).

Health check
Discover your risk factors for lifestyle diseases in time and do something about them. Anemia, iron deficiency and haemochromatosis (excess iron) are common health conditions.

Monitor changes to your blood values as you make lifestyle changes, take supplements, or undergo treatments.

Health history
A personal or family history of either anemia or excess iron makes regular iron tests worthwhile.

Heavy periods
Heavy periods increase blood loss and thus the risk of anemia.

Pregnant women are at increased risk of anemia.  Healthy iron levels are important for both mother and baby.

Iron is involved in muscle function, transporting oxygen to the tissues, and the conversion of carbohydrates into energy.

Symptoms of low iron include low energy, fatigue, rapid heart rate (especially with exercise), dizziness, pale skin, leg cramps, and insomnia. 

Fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, liver disease, irregular heart rhythm, or skin colour changes can indicate high iron – however, symptoms do not always occur.

You take a drug, such as hydrocortisone or antacids, which increases the need for iron.

What causes low serum iron?

Serum iron results must be interpreted alongside other test results.  A low blood iron level is most often caused by iron deficiency anemia (IDA), especially if transferrin or TIBC is high and transferrin saturation is low.  Underlying causes include low stomach acid, low iron intake, and microscopic bleeding. Some long-term diseases cause low iron alongside low transferrin or TIBC.

What causes high serum iron?

The most common cause is hereditary hemochromatosis. Ingesting high amounts of iron can also cause high iron levels. Other reasons include multiple blood transfusions, viral infections, iron injections, iron conversion problems, lead poisoning, liver disease, and kidney disease.


The day before the test

If you take iron supplements, avoid them for 24 hours before doing this test.

The day of the test

Remember to take I.D. with you when going to take a test. Take this test before 10am. Results can fluctuate throughout the day. If you are a woman who has menstrual cycles it can be helpful to note down the day of your cycle.


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