A serum iron test measures how much iron is in your serum. Serum is the liquid that’s left over from your blood when red blood cells and clotting factors have been removed.
Anemia occurs when you have a decreased level of haemoglobin in your red blood cells (RBCs). Haemoglobin is the protein in your RBCs that is responsible for carrying oxygen to your tissues. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia, and it occurs when your body doesn’t have enough of the mineral iron. Your body needs iron to make haemoglobin. When there isn’t enough iron in your bloodstream, the rest of your body can’t get the amount of oxygen it needs.
The serum iron test can reveal abnormally low or high blood iron levels. Your doctor will most likely order this test after another lab test shows an abnormal result.
Having too much iron — or not enough — can cause serious health problems. This test will help your doctor give you a more accurate diagnosis.
The symptoms of iron deficiency anemia can be mild at first, and you may not even notice them. Most people don’t realize they have mild anemia until they have a routine blood test. The symptoms of moderate to severe iron deficiency anemia include:
- General fatigue
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Strange cravings to eat items that aren’t food, such as dirt, ice, or clay
- A tingling or crawling feeling in the legs
- Tongue swelling or soreness
- Cold hands and feet
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Brittle nails
How to Identify?
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia. There are many reasons why a person might become deficient in iron. These include:
- Inadequate iron intake
- Pregnancy or blood loss due to menstruation
- Internal bleeding
- Inability to absorb iron
Anemia is a common condition and can occur in both men and women of any age and from any ethnic group. Some people may be at greater risk of iron deficiency anemia than others, including:
- Women of childbearing age
- Pregnant women
- People with poor diets
- People who donate blood frequently
- Infants and children, especially those born prematurely or experiencing a growth spurt
- Vegetarians who don’t replace meat with another iron-rich food
Health complications of iron deficiency anemia. Most cases of iron deficiency anemia are mild and don’t cause complications. The condition can usually be corrected easily. However, if anemia or iron deficiency is left untreated, it can lead to other health problems.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Pregnancy complications
- Delayed growth in infants and children
What to Do?
A doctor can diagnose anemia with blood tests.
- Complete blood cell (CBC) test
A complete blood count (CBC) is usually the first test a doctor will use. A CBC measures the amount of all components in the blood, including:
- Red blood cells (RBCs)
- White blood cells (WBCs)
A normal haematocrit range is 34.9 to 44.5 percent for adult women and 38.8 to 50 percent for adult men. The normal haemoglobin range is 12.0 to 15.5 grams per decilitre for an adult woman and 13.5 to 17.5 grams per decilitre for an adult man.
Anemia can usually be confirmed with a CBC test. Your doctor might order additional blood tests to determine how severe your anemia is and help determine treatments.
- The iron level in your blood
- Your RBC size and colour (RBCs are pale if they’re deficient in iron)
- Your ferritin levels
- Your total iron-binding capacity (TIBC)
- Tests for internal bleeding
If your doctor is concerned that internal bleeding is causing your anemia, additional tests may be needed. One test you may have is fecal occult test to look for blood in your feces. Blood in your feces may indicate bleeding in your intestine.
- Iron supplements
- Treating the underlying cause of bleeding