Iron Blood Test, from our experts to you.Dr Sam Rodgers MBBS, MRCGP
Chief Medical Officermeet our doctors
What is iron and why is it important?
Iron is an essential mineral that’s needed to make haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that helps transport oxygen around your body. It also plays an important role in supporting your immune system, maintaining energy levels, and regulating body temperature.
When your iron level is low, you can feel tired and be more susceptible to illnesses and infections. And a severe lack of iron could lead to iron deficiency anaemia, which causes fatigue, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.
What can I learn from this at-home iron blood test?
What causes low iron levels?
Low iron levels are most commonly caused by blood loss, such as heavy periods or internal bleeding (often in the digestive tract). You're at greater risk if you regularly take steroids, blood thinners, or drugs like ibuprofen. Other causes of iron deficiency include pregnancy, a low-iron diet, or bowel conditions like coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
Limitations of the test
How to prepare for your test?
Prepare for your Iron Blood Test by following these instructions. Take this test when any symptoms of short-term illness have settled. Do not take biotin supplements for two days before this test, discuss this with your doctor if it is prescribed.
Frequently asked questions
What is a normal level of iron in the blood?
Your iron levels fluctuate daily according to your diet. For this reason, ferritin, a measure of your iron stores, is often a more useful marker of your iron status.
For everyone, a ferritin level less than 30 micrograms/L confirms iron deficiency. However, this threshold may be higher in people with chronic inflammatory conditions, where ferritin levels may be falsely raised.
If your iron levels are too low, your body may struggle to carry enough oxygen to the tissues. This can lead to iron deficiency anaemia and symptoms such as tiredness, low energy, and shortness of breath. Depending on the cause, you may require iron supplements or injections to bring your iron levels back into a healthy range.
What happens if my iron levels are too low?
Too much iron can also cause health problems. It may be caused by taking too many iron supplements, excess iron in your diet, or an inherited condition called haemochromatosis. Over time, excess iron is stored in your liver and other organs. This build-up can cause heart problems, joint pain, and liver disease. However, there are treatments which can reduce the amount of iron in your body and lessen the risk of long-term damage.
What happens if my iron levels are too high?
How can I improve my iron levels?
If your diet is contributing to low iron levels, you can try eating iron-rich foods like dark-green, leafy vegetables and meat (if it’s in your diet). Drinking citrus juices alongside a meal including green leafy vegetables can also help improve absorption.
If you eat a plant-based diet, read our guide on nutrition for more plant-based sources of iron. Sometimes, you may need a supplement to boost your levels, and you should carefully follow any treatment advice your GP gives you.
We’ll send you everything you need to test your iron levels at home, including our easy finger-prick iron test kit and a pre-paid return envelope for your sample. Our at-home iron test includes a full lab analysis of your blood sample, doctor’s advice and any next steps.
How can I test my iron levels at home?
What’s the difference between iron and ferritin?
The main difference between iron and ferritin is that iron is a mineral (present in the red blood cells that carry oxygen) and ferritin is a protein that stores iron and releases it when the body needs it. So, even though they aren’t the same, they work together.
Women and iron deficiency anaemia
Premenopausal women are at greater risk of iron deficiency compared to men due to pregnancy and menstruation. During pregnancy, you and your baby will need a lot more iron to make red blood cells, which can deplete your iron stores leading to anaemia. Heavy periods can also put you at risk of low iron levels due to blood loss, so it’s important to keep an eye on any symptoms of a deficiency. Read more about iron levels for women.
Iron overload syndrome
Raised iron in the blood can indicate haemochromatosis, an inherited condition that causes your body to absorb too much iron. A build-up of iron can cause symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, and muscle weakness. And if left untreated, this can lead to health issues including liver damage. Our Iron Overload (Haemochromatosis) Blood Test can help you check for the condition if you have a family member with haemochromatosis, or if you’re experiencing symptoms.