Your body needs iron to make red blood cells and muscle. Blood tests can check for iron problems in your body. Too little iron can cause a low red blood cell count and anaemia.
Too much iron can cause damage to your heart and your liver.
What is being tested?
Haemoglobin molecules in your red blood cells carry oxygen around your body. Each haemoglobin molecule has an iron atom. You need iron in your diet to make haemoglobin. Not enough iron makes you anaemic and tired.
There are different types of blood tests that can check for different aspects of iron in your body:
- A serum iron test measures the amount of iron in your blood.
- A ferritin test measures the amount of ferritin in your body. This is a protein that stores iron in your cells.
- A transferrin test (or total iron binding capacity, or TIBC test), checks how well iron is transported in your blood.
Why would I need an iron test?
You might need iron studies if you have anaemia. Low blood iron is one of the most common causes of anaemia.
An iron study might also be done if your doctor suspects you have too much iron in your body.
How to prepare for this test
You might be asked to fast (not eat) for 12 hours before some iron studies. You can drink water, though.
Understanding your results
Your doctor will usually request one or more iron studies to help detect iron problems.
However, there are many different conditions that can cause abnormal iron study results. You might need other tests to find out the cause of the problem. You can discuss your test results with your doctor.
About iron studies testing
About blood testing
Visit our ‘Guide to blood testing’ to learn more about blood tests in general with information such as:
- what to consider before having the test
- what happens during a blood test
- results accuracy
- blood tests cost.
Last reviewed: September 2016