What is an Iron Deficiency Blood test?

Have you felt exhausted lately? Can you barely make it up the stairs or for a walk without getting winded, even though you’re physically fit? If so, you might be lacking in iron.

Although think most people don’t of iron as being an essential nutrient, it might be surprising to learn that low iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the US.

Your body relies on iron in red blood cells to carry oxygen to all its cells. In your blood, iron helps form hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an important protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen throughout the body so it can function normally.

Ferritin is a protein that stores iron, releasing it when your body needs it. Ferritin is stored in the body’s cells until it’s time to make more red blood cells, at which point the body will signal the cells to release ferritin. Ferritin then must bind to another protein called transferrin to be able to travel through the bloodstream to where new red blood cells are made.

An Iron Deficiency/Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC) blood test gauges whether there’s too little or too much iron in your bloodstream. The TIBC test evaluates how well transferrin carries iron throughout the bloodstream by measuring the amount of iron in the blood.

Doctors typically order TIBC tests to check for medical conditions that cause abnormal iron levels. Your doctor may perform a TIBC test if you’re experiencing the symptoms of anemia, or a lack of iron in the blood. Some symptoms can include:

  • General fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, brittle nails
  • Strange cravings to eat items that are not food, e.g. dirt, ice or clay
  • A tingling or crawling feeling in the legs
  • Tongue swelling or soreness
  • Cold hands and feet

Some common populations that are at risk for iron deficiency can include:

  • Infants and young children
    • Infants and young children need a lot of iron to grow and develop
    • The iron that full-term babies have stored up in their bodies is used in the first 4-6 months of life – premature and low-weight babies (<5.5lbs) are at an even higher risk because they do not have as much iron stored in their bodies as bigger or full-term babies
  • Teens
    • Teens are at risk if they are underweight or have chronic illness
    • Teenage girls who have heavy periods are also at risk because of increased blood loss
  • Women
    • Women of child-bearing age are at higher risk because of blood loss during their monthly periods – approximately 1 in 5 women of child-bearing age have iron deficiency
  • Pregnant women
    • Pregnant women are at even higher risk for the condition because they need twice as much iron as usual – this is due to increased blood volume and for the fetus’ growth
    • Approximately half of all pregnant women develop iron deficiency during their pregnancy – this can increase their risk for a premature or low-weight baby
  • Dialysis patients
    • Not only is blood is lost during in dialysis, but the kidneys are no longer able to make enough of a hormone that the body needs to produce red blood cells
  • Gastric bypass surgery patients
    • This type of surgery can prevent the body from absorbing enough iron
  • Vegetarians and vegans
    • Meat and fish are great source of iron – because vegetarians and vegans, cut these out of their diet, they are at higher risk for iron deficiency
    • If they are following a diet that is high in fiber, this increased fiber can also slow the absorption of iron
    • However, their diets can provide enough iron if they make sure to eat the right foods – for them, the best sources of iron include iron-fortified breads and cereals, beans, tofu, dried fruits, spinach, and other dark leafy vegetables

When will I receive my results?

Once completed, you will receive your results within 3-5 business days in your LabFinder portal.

How do I prepare? Do I need to fast?

No preparation or fasting required. Just bring your LabFinder Order and Insurance Card to your appointment.

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