Iron is a mineral that the body needs as a component of haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells used to transport oxygen around the body. Iron is also needed for energy and to make the muscles and internal organs work. The body gets its iron from the food we eat. Iron can be found in meat, eggs, fish and leafy greens. Our bodies have a particularly high need for iron during adolescence, pregnancy or breastfeeding and following blood loss.
Healthy adult men get sufficient quantities of iron in their food and rarely develop iron deficiency. They have enough iron in their bodies to last them for several years, even if they have no further iron intake at all. Women, on the other hand, lose iron from the body during menstruation, pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is why women are at greater risk of iron deficiency than men and may need to take iron as a dietary supplement. Postmenopausal women and adult men may suffer from iron deficiency in some cases, usually because of bleeding in the stomach or intestines in connection with stomach ulcers or intestinal cancer, for example.
The sample makes it possible to see whether a person is suffering from iron deficiency anaemia or haemochromatosis. It is also possible to follow up a treatment. The sample may be part of a general health check considering nutritional status.
High levels seen in cases of parenteral iron supplementation, repeated blood transfusions, haemolytic anaemia, acute hepatitis, cirrhosis, acute leukaemia, sideroblastic anaemia and nephritis.
Low levels are seen in patients suffering from iron deficiency, acute and chronic infections, post-operatively, who are in remission from pernicious anaemia, cancer, nephrosis.