Iron is a crucial mineral that is essential for maintaining healthy body practices. Iron is essential for the cells to perform optimally and this forms the basis of all our metabolic functions. Not only this, iron provides us energy for functioning, improves immunity, and muscle strength. Since the human body cannot produce iron, it is gained from the food that we eat. If our diet does not contain foods fortified with iron, and this is especially true for vegetarians, a deficiency of iron occurs. Other reasons for low iron levels include age, pregnancy, and conditions like celiac disease. This leads to a condition known as anaemia and has extremely discomforting symptoms. This is where an iron test comes in. Also known as ferritin test, this is a blood test that measures different substances in the body like iron in the liquid portion of the blood, the availability and reserve capacity of transferrin, amount of stored iron in the body, levels of iron-binding proteins, etc. All these are ordered and interpreted together to help diagnose if there is an iron deficiency or overload in the blood. Ferritin test can be done either at a hospital or lab. However, with the advancement in technology and telemedicine, anaemia test at home is now a possibility.
A ferritin test includes these types of tests: Ferritin: Ferritin is the storage form of iron and the ferritin test measures how much iron is stored in the body. When the iron levels are low, it will be pulled out of its storage for use. Iron: This anaemia blood test measures the levels of iron in the blood. Percentage Transferrin Saturation: This test looks for the levels of iron absorption in your body. Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC): This test measures the amount of iron that can be bound by the proteins in the blood. Besides these iron profile tests, there are several add-on tests also available like: Calcium: This test is designed to screen, diagnose, and monitor the condition and functioning of the heart, nerves, muscles, kidneys, thyroid, teeth, etc. Vitamin screening: This test assesses the levels of Vitamin B12 and D in the body. Complete haemogram (CBC + ESR): This test assesses the levels of Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells, and platelets. This also includes the peripheral smear examination that helps in screening for anaemia, cancers, and chronic infections. Testosterone Total: This test is done for both men and women to screen issues related to fertility, PCOS, menstruation, etc.
There are several benefits of getting a ferritin test done regularly: A ferritin test is the best way to screen deficiency of iron in your blood and assess if you have low or high levels of it. Since iron deficiency is common in large parts of the population, regular blood iron level tests can help in catching its symptoms early on before they convert into iron deficiency anaemia. This is helpful since the symptoms start appearing only when low levels of iron have progressed into anaemia. If you are already undergoing treatment for iron deficiency of iron, anaemia blood test is a great way to ascertain if your treatment and management plan is effective and if corrective action is required. Since healthcare costs are increasing constantly, an early and regular iron profile test helps in avoiding expensive medical services and treatments. Since you begin early treatment, you live a stress-free life once your symptoms are managed effectively and before they become chronic. Other add-on tests available in addition to iron tests, help in screening for other conditions like cancer, fertility, osteoporosis, etc.
An iron test may be advised by your doctor when she/he suspects an iron deficiency in your body. However, it is strongly recommended that you get an iron profile test annually since most of the symptoms of iron deficiency do not show up until it has progressed. You feel tired and fatigued constantly. You have a pale pallor. Your lower eyelids, gums, inside of the lips, nails, etc. are pale. You experience frequent headaches and dizziness. Your heartbeat is irregular or you feel palpitations. Your skin and hair lose their sheen and are dry and damaged. You experience restless leg syndrome. Your mouth feels dry and there are ulcers or cracks in it. You get abnormal cravings like that of ice, clay, or chalk. You experience feelings of depression. Your hands and feet are mostly cold. You fall sick frequently. You suffer from other health conditions that put you at risk of iron deficiency like chronic kidney diseases, etc. If there are other situations like pregnancy that put you at risk of deficiency of iron.
You need to keep these pointers in mind before you take your iron profile test: The iron profile test is done on an empty stomach. So you need to stop eating at least 8 hours before the test. Certain medications like fluorides, birth control pills and some antibiotics may interfere with the result of the iron profile test. You need to inform your doctor about the medications that you are taking. In case you are being treated for iron deficiencies and are taking iron supplements, they must be stopped at least 24 hours before the anaemia test. If you are taking the anaemia test at home, you should prepare a comfortable corner in your house for the phlebotomist to set her/his equipment and take your samples. If you are getting the anaemia test done at a hospital, lab or clinic, make sure to carry your medical reports, history, and prescriptions. Ask your doctor if there is anything that you need to do to prepare for your iron profile test, depending on your specific case.
With advancements in medicine, it is now extremely easy to take an iron test at home. This is how an iron profile test at home works: You need to buy the relevant iron profile test pack and schedule the anaemia test as per your convenience. An WHO and DMLT certified phlebotomist will collect your samples from the comfort of your home. After the completion of the diagnostic test, an experienced lab will process your reports. You will receive your ferritin test report within 24 hours of the test in your email.
Being a simple blood test, a ferritin test has few side effects. However, some people may experience: Minor bleeding or bruising on the spot where the blood was drawn. Fatigue or light-headedness, though this is extremely rare. In case this happens, you may need to sit for a while and have something to drink or eat before you leave the clinic. Visiting a lab, clinic, or hospital for an iron blood test, may increase the risk of infections. This can be avoided by taking the iron blood test at home.
Iron profile results tend to vary from one lab to the other. But typically this is how anaemia test results are interpreted: S.no Test Healthy range 1. TIBC 262-474 mcg/dL 2. Total serum iron 26-170 mcg/dL in women and 76-198 mcg/dL in men 3. Transferrin saturation 204-360 mg/dL