The iron saturation blood test is designed to provide an estimate of the amount of iron storage that is occurring within the body. It is a test that is often ordered with other iron measurements to determine if there may be a deficiency present or if a person’s bothersome signs and symptoms are due to iron toxicity.
What makes iron such an interesting supplement in nutritional health is the fact that only about 10% of the iron a person consumes every day will be absorbed by the body. When there is a lack of high-iron foods in the diet, such as red meat, liver, or egg yolks, then without supplementation, there is the potential for a deficiency to be present.
When to Ask About the Iron Saturation Blood Test
The iron saturation blood test is typically ordered when there is the possibility of a deficiency or an overload of iron for some reason. Additional tests may also be ordered should the signs and symptoms of anemia be present.
In general terms, the symptoms of having a lack of iron include chronic fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and frequent headaches. Some headaches may be severe and mimic the symptoms of a migraine. There will be frequent spells of feeling tired, but not exhausted, and some may have a skin color that is more pale than normal.
There are also some conditions which allow iron to accumulate within the body to unhealthy levels. The symptoms of this condition include joint pain, weight loss, abdominal pain, a lack of energy, and a loss of hair. Some people may also experience problems with their heart and there may be a partial or complete loss of a sex drive.
Most people, however, have no initial symptoms when iron levels are at an inappropriate level. This is why some medical providers may recommend an iron saturation blood test as part of an annual medical exam.
What Do My Iron Saturation Blood Test Results Mean?
When evaluating the iron saturation results, the total percentage will be evaluated in combination with other iron testing methods. This will help a medical provider be able to determine what potential disease or deficiency may be present. Here are some of the most common results that are reported from this type of testing.
Iron deficiencies: This health condition will generally have a low iron saturation rate. UIBC and TIBC blood tests will have high results. Ferritin and total iron testing will have low results.
Hemochromatosis: This health condition will have a high iron saturation rate. Total iron and ferritin blood tests will also be high. TIBC and UIBC will generally be low.
Hemolytic Anemia: This condition is represented by a high saturation percentage and a high iron and ferritin count. Other testing may produce normal results.
Sideroblastic Anemia: This health condition also has a high saturation percentage. It will also produce a high abnormal result on a ferritin blood test. All other tests may be normal.
People suffering from a chronic illness will typically have low iron levels in all blood tests that are ordered, though ferritin levels can sometimes be high during an illness. Individuals who may have iron poisoning will generally have high iron saturation percentages and an overall high iron count, but will have normal ferritin and TIBC levels with low UIBC results.
Something as simple as inflammation or malnutrition can be enough to create abnormal iron saturation test results.
Here’s What You’ll Want to Know
If you’ve had a recent blood transfusion, then your iron saturation blood test results will not always be accurate. It may take several weeks before an accurate blood test result may be achieved. Individuals who have had multiple blood transfusions may suffer from the symptoms of iron toxicity, even if their levels of iron are tested in the normal range.
There are also numerous reasons why an individual may be suffering from anemia. Iron deficiency is simply the most common, which is why the iron saturation blood test is commonly ordered. If this test comes back as normal, along with other iron tests, then another cause for the anemia will need to be found.
If you suspect an iron deficiency, before having a blood test ordered, it is important to speak with your doctor about any chronic pain, infections, or inflammation that are present. These can cause changes in the iron saturation rates and create false results that may be misinterpreted.
For more questions about the iron saturation blood test and how it may impact your health, be sure to speak with your doctor and review your complete medical history for best results.