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Iron (Fe)

How It Feels

The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.

Risks

There is very little chance of a problem from having a blood sample taken from a vein.

  • You may get a small bruise at the site. You can lower the chance of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become swollen after the blood sample is taken. This problem is called phlebitis. A warm compress can be used several times a day to treat this.
  • Ongoing bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (such as Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your doctor before your blood sample is taken.

Results

An iron test checks the amount of iron in the blood to see how well iron is metabolized in the body.

Normal

The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.

Serum iron1
Men:

70–175 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or 12.5–31.3 micromoles per liter (mcmol/L)

Women:

50–150 mcg/dL or 8.9–26.8 mcmol/L

Children:

50-120 mcg/dL or 9.0–21.5 mcmol/L

 

Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC)1
Men and women:

250–450 mcg/dL or 45–76 mcmol/L

 

Transferrin saturation1
Men:

10%–50%

Women:

15%–50%

 

High and low values

The values for serum iron, total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), and transferrin saturation are used to see if a low amount of iron in the body is from iron deficiency anemia or another condition. The values are also used to see whether a high amount of iron is due to hemochromatosis or another condition. Other conditions that affect iron, TIBC, and transferrin saturation levels include:

  • Hemolytic anemia. This causes a low amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin found in red blood cells. The iron levels are often normal.
  • Thalassemia. This is a blood disorder that runs in families (inherited). It changes how the body makes hemoglobin. The iron levels are often normal, but ferritin levels may be high if the person has had a lot of blood transfusions.
  • Cirrhosis. This is a condition that occurs when inflammation and scarring damage the liver.
  • Lead poisoning. This develops from months or years of exposure to small amounts of lead in the environment.
  • Iron deficiency anemia. This occurs when low iron levels cause a low amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in red blood cells. The iron levels are low, the transferrin saturation is high, and the ferritin level is low.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. This form of arthritis inflames the membranes or tissues lining the joints.
  • Overuse of iron supplements.
  • Bleeding.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Severe infection.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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