How Is Iron in the Blood Measured?

Iron is one of the essential minerals and it is used by your body for a variety of important functions 2. Therefore it is important to have iron in your diet and in your blood. There are several blood tests that are used to detect the amount of iron in your blood. These are most commonly performed to prevent or diagnose an iron deficiency.

Iron Blood Tests

The essential tests that check blood iron levels include a hemoglobin test, a serum iron test, a total iron-binding capacity test and a serum ferritin test. Your doctor may order one or more of these tests as part of an iron panel. Each test has normal and ideal ranges, but in general the ideal Iron level should be 60 to 170 mcg/dL. Other key iron ranges include total iron-binding capacity of 240 to 450 mcg/dL and a transferrin saturation of 20 to 50 percent, according to PubMed Health. Both hemoglobin and serum ferritin tests have ranges for both male and female. Hemoglobin is ideal for a male if your level is 13.8 to 17.2 gm/dL and 12.1 to 15.1 gm/dL if you are female. The ideal ranges for ferritin are 12 to 300 ng/mL for males and 12 to 150 ng/mL for females.

Iron Deficiency

Low levels of iron in your blood can be caused by blood loss, poor diet or a problem with your body's ability to absorb iron from food. Low levels lead to iron deficiency anemia and can include symptoms such as:

  • brittle nails
  • a decreased appetite
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • shortness of breath
  • a sore tongue
  • unusual food cravings
  • weakness

Iron deficiency can also cause your skin to become pale and the whites of your eyes to become blue.

Importance Of Iron

One key area that iron is very important in, is in the production of proteins. Your body uses iron to make two very important proteins called hemoglobin and myoglobin. Both of these are important for the transport and storage of oxygen in your body. In addition iron is also used in the production of enzymes that are used in the thousands of chemical reactions that take place every day.


Most blood tests are performed to see if your iron levels are too low, but too much iron in your blood can also be a problem 3. In fact, high levels of iron in your blood are toxic. For this reason, a daily intake upper limit has been set at 45 mg per day. If you are concerned about your iron levels and whether you are consuming the proper amount, you should talk with your doctor about having your blood levels checked.