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A person's blood contains roughly 70% of the total iron in the body. Iron is carried in the hemoglobin of the red blood cells. Iron from food is absorbed into the plasma through the small intestine. Once in the bloodstream, the iron binds to a blood protein that transports it to the bone marrow. There it is incorporated into the hemoglobin. The serum iron test measures the amount of iron in the plasma that is on its way to the bone marrow.

You will normally need to refrain from eating for 12 hours before the test. Drinking water is permitted.

Normal serum iron levels are:
Men: 65 to 176 µg/dl (micrograms/deciliter)
Women: 50 to 170 µg/dl
Newborns: 100 to 250 µg/dl
Children: 50 to 120 µg/dl

Very high levels of serum iron can indicate a number of conditions. These include:

  • iron deposits in the body from excess iron in the bloodstream. The deposits can be caused by genetic condtions known as hemosiderosis or hemochromatosis.

  • iron poisoning, caused by ingestion of too much iron

  • leaking of hemoglobin out of the red blood cells, called hemolytic anemia

  • a large blood transfusion

  • liver problems such as hepatitis or cirrhosis

  • lead poisoning

Low serum iron levels may be a sign of:

  • a diet low in iron

  • chronic blood loss, such as gastrointestinal bleeding

  • poor absorption of iron from the digestive tract

  • third trimester pregnancy iron deficiency anemia

  • tumor growth




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