The iron and TIBC blood test helps to measure how much total iron binding capacity a person has thanks to a protein that is called transferring. This is how iron moves through the blood. Having too much or too little is an indication that someone may have abnormal levels of iron and how well the transferrin is operating.
The test is ordered when there are the symptoms of anemia being experienced. This may include headaches, weakness, pale skin, or chronic fatigue. High levels of iron may also trigger this blood test being ordered. The symptoms of excessive iron include unusual joint pain, a lack of energy, abdominal pain, and the loss of hair.
It is important to address high iron levels immediately as they can lead to heart problems. This may also include congestive heart failure, which means the heart is not pumping blood as effectively as it should be.
Most people with iron or TIBC issues, however, have no initial symptoms. The most common reason for this blood test is to determine the iron levels in children who have accidentally overdosed on multivitamins. Suspected iron poisoning or anemia may also trigger this blood test.
What Do My Test Results Mean?
For the average person, between 20-40% of available transferrin is used to transport iron. Most people will have results that fit into the normal category if they were to have this blood test ordered for them today. A day or two of inadequate or excessive iron will not typically lead to abnormal blood test results.
For those that are suffering from an iron deficiency, the iron and TIBC blood test will show low iron levels, but increased TIBC levels. If there is an excessive amount of iron in the blood, it means that saturation levels will be low for TIBC, but the iron count will be high. If liver health is a concern, low TIBC levels can also be used with other testing methods to determine the status of the organ’s health.
Low TIBC can also be an indication of malnutrition or chronic inflammation.
Certain diseases can also be tracked based on the results of the iron and TIBC blood test. Here are the issues that medical providers are going to be looking at.
1. Chronic illnesses create low iron and low TIBC levels.
2. Hemolytic anemia has high iron levels and normal to low TIBC levels.
3. Sideroblastic anemia may have normal iron and TIBC levels. It may also have high iron and low TIBC.
Hemochromatosis and iron poisoning may also produce high iron levels and low TIBC levels. Recent blood transfusions, however, make skew results one way or the other to create an inaccurate test result. If you have a family history of hemochromatosis, a medical provider will likely order this blood test if it hasn’t already been ordered as a proactive measure to check on your health.
Here’s What You Need to Know
There are numerous reasons why someone may be suffering from anemia. Iron deficiencies are the most common reason for anemia to occur, which is why the iron and TIBC blood test is routinely ordered. It isn’t the only cause, however, so if the test results come back as normal and there are the symptoms of anemia, more testing will be required.
It is important to note that transferrin levels can actually decrease when there is the presence of a chronic infection. This is called a “negative acute phase” and can also be present when there’s chronic inflammation or a malignancy somewhere within the body.
You may be instructed by your medical provider to fast for at least 12 hours before the blood draw is taken for the test. Water is allowed in normal quantities during the fasting period. Most people find that eating an early dinner and then a late breakfast the next day is the easiest way to succeed in the prolonged fasting that may be required.
This test may be ordered with a complete blood count as part of a normal physical examination. It may also be ordered if there is a suspected health issue which needs to be addressed.
The iron and TIBC blood test is useful in determining overall health and the results can be used to create an effective treatment plan to restore health if necessary. If you’re experiencing the symptoms of high or low iron levels, then considered talking to your medical provider about this blood test at your next scheduled appointment.