Iron and Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)


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The serum iron test measures the amount of iron in your blood. The total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) test looks at how well the iron moves through your body.

The serum iron test measures the amount of iron in your blood. The total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) test looks at how well iron moves through your body.

What is a TIBC blood test, and why is it important?

A TIBC blood test, or Total Iron-Binding Capacity TIBC test, measures the blood's ability to carry iron. This test is important for diagnosing conditions like iron-deficiency anemia and hemochromatosis. It helps determine how much iron is available in the blood and if there are any abnormalities in iron metabolism.

Understanding TIBC Blood Test: Essential Information

The serum iron test measures the amount of iron in your blood. The total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) test looks at how well iron moves through your body.

The iron panel includes the serum iron test, which measures the amount of iron in your blood, and the total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) test, which looks at how well the iron moves through your body.

Iron Panel: Why is Iron Important for Health?

Iron is an important mineral that your body needs to stay healthy. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body and helps it function normally. If you don't have enough iron, you may not have enough hemoglobin, which can lead to a condition called iron deficiency anemia. Hemoglobin is an essential protein in red blood cells (RBCs) that helps carry oxygen throughout the body so it can function normally. Iron is considered an essential mineral because hemoglobin can’t be made without it. Iron is an essential nutrient that, among other functions, is necessary for producing healthy red blood cells (RBCs).

Transferrin, a protein that your liver produces, is primarily responsible for carrying or binding iron in your body. The TIBC test is based on certain proteins, including transferrin, found in the blood. Your transferrin levels are almost always measured along with iron and TIBC.

Iron plays a principal role in erythropoiesis, the formation and maturation of red blood cells (RBCs), and is required for hemoglobin synthesis. The human body contains between four and five grams of iron, about 65% of which is present in hemoglobin and 3% of which is present in myoglobin, the oxygen storage protein found in skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle. A small amount is also found in cellular enzymes that catalyze the oxidation and reduction of iron. Excess iron is stored in the liver and spleen as ferritin and hemosiderin. Any iron present in the serum is in transit between the digestive track and bone marrow, and available iron stores form.

What is the TIBC Blood Test?

Transferrin, a specific transport protein, carries 60 to 70 percent of the body's iron. For this reason, the total capacity of the blood to bind and transport iron (TIBC) and transferrin are sometimes referred to as interchangeable, even though other proteins carry iron and contribute to the TIBC. The TIBC test shows the amount of transferrin in your blood, which is a protein your liver makes that regulates the absorption of iron into your blood. If you have too much iron (for example, if you have a condition like hemochromatosis), your iron level will be high, but your TIBC will be low or normal. Lab tests can help determine the TIBC and transferrin levels in your blood and assess your iron status. A TIBC (total iron-binding capacity) test is one of a few tests healthcare providers use to diagnose iron-related conditions, like anemia and hemochromatosis. They often compare the results to iron and ferritin blood test results.

Unbound iron is highly toxic, but there is generally an excess of transferrin available to prevent the buildup of unbound iron in the circulation. The percentage of iron saturation is calculated by dividing the serum iron value by the TIBC value and multiplying it by 100.

What is Iron Deficiency?

Iron deficiency is the state in which a body lacks enough iron to supply its needs. Iron is found in all of the body's cells and plays many important roles. For example, as a key part of the hemoglobin protein, iron brings oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. Iron also helps electrons move around inside cells through cytochromes and speeds up oxygen enzyme reactions in different tissues. Too little iron can interfere with these vital functions and lead to morbidity and death. Testing is also ordered when there is a suspected case of iron poisoning, most commonly in children who accidentally overdose on vitamins or other supplements containing iron. If you have an iron deficiency, iron supplements will increase your iron levels. They are, however, associated with a lot of side effects, including sudden weight loss. You also don’t want to overdo them, because iron overload increases oxidative stress in the body and has a lot of negative consequences. You may want to try and correct mild efficiency through dietary intervention first.

Iron Absorption Facts:

Total body iron averages approximately 3.8 g in men and 2.3 g in women. In blood plasma, iron is tightly bound to the protein transferrin. There are several mechanisms that control iron metabolism and safeguard against iron deficiency. The main regulatory mechanism is situated in the gastrointestinal tract. The majority of iron absorption occurs in the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine. A number of dietary factors may affect iron absorption. When the loss of iron is not sufficiently compensated by intake of iron from the diet, a state of iron deficiency develops over time. When this state is uncorrected, it leads to iron-deficiency anemia, a common type of anemia. Before anemia occurs, the medical condition of iron deficiency without anemia is called latent iron deficiency (LID). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that healthy people get the following amounts of iron through their diet.

Anemia Due to Low Iron Consumption

Anemia is a condition characterized by inadequate red blood cells (erythrocytes) or hemoglobin. When the body lacks sufficient amounts of iron, production of the protein hemoglobin is reduced, leading to low iron levels. Hemoglobin binds to oxygen, enabling red blood cells to supply oxygenated blood throughout the body. Women of childbearing age, children, and people with poor diets and a lack of iron-rich foods are most susceptible to the disease. The majority of cases of iron deficiency anemia are mild, but if left untreated, they can result in issues like an irregular heartbeat, pregnancy complications, and delayed growth in infants and children, which may affect their cognitive development and behavior. Fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, and pale skin are the most common symptoms of anemia, including abdominal pain. This may occur because of a condition that causes chronic blood loss, such as peptic ulcers, colon cancer, or excess menstrual bleeding.

Symptoms of Low Iron Blood Levels:

Symptoms of iron deficiency can occur even before the condition has progressed to iron deficiency anemia.

Symptoms of iron deficiency are not unique to iron deficiency. Iron is needed for many enzymes to function normally, so a wide range of symptoms may eventually emerge, either as a secondary result of the anemia or as other primary results of iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include:

  • fatigue
  • dizziness/lightheadedness
  • pallor
  • hair loss
  • twitches
  • irritability
  • weakness
  • pica
  • brittle or grooved nails
  • hair thinning
  • Plummer-Vinson syndrome: painful atrophy of the mucous membrane covering the tongue, the pharynx and the esophagus
  • impaired immune function
  • pagophagia (compulsive ice chewing)
  • restless legs syndrome

Continued iron deficiency may progress to anemia and worsening fatigue. Thrombocytosis, or an elevated platelet count, can also result. A lack of sufficient iron levels in the blood is one reason that some people cannot donate blood.

Symptoms of High Iron Overload

Iron overload, or hemochromatosis, indicates the accumulation of iron in the body from any cause. Hereditary hemochromatosis (HHC), a genetic disorder, and transfusional iron overload, which can happen after a lot of blood transfusions, are the main causes.

Organs most commonly affected by hemochromatosis include the liver, heart, and endocrine glands.

Hemochromatosis may present with the following clinical syndromes:

  • liver: chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver
  • heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia
  • hormones: diabetes (see below) and hypogonadism (insufficiency of the sex hormone-producing glands), which leads to low sex drive and/or loss of fertility in men and loss of menstrual cycle in women.
  • metabolism: people who have too much iron get diabetes because iron builds up selectively in islet beta cells in the pancreas, destroying their ability to work and killing the cells.
  • skeletal: arthritis, from calcium pyrophosphate deposition in joints leading to joint pains. The most commonly affected joints are those of the hands, particularly the knuckles of the second and third fingers.
  • skin: melanoderma (darkening or 'bronzing' of the skin).
  • The skin's deep tan color, in concert with insulin insufficiency due to pancreatic damage, is the source of a nickname for this condition: "bronze diabetes."

What Can the Iron and TIBC Blood Test Diagnose?

The Iron and TIBC blood test is a common diagnostic tool that measures the levels of iron and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) in the blood. This test can help diagnose a range of conditions related to iron metabolism, including iron deficiency anemia, hemochromatosis, and chronic liver disease. Low levels of iron and high levels of TIBC may indicate iron deficiency anemia, while high levels of both may suggest hemochromatosis or chronic liver disease. In addition to diagnosis, the Iron and TIBC blood test can also be used to monitor treatment efficacy in patients with these conditions.

How Can Iron Levels Be Increased?

Iron test levels can be increased by incorporating iron-rich foods into your diet, such as red meat, poultry, fish, beans, and leafy green vegetables. Vitamin C can also enhance the absorption of iron in the body, so consuming foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes can be beneficial. Iron supplements are another option for those who have been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia or are at risk of developing it. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen. Additionally, avoiding certain substances like tea and coffee during meals may also aid in increasing iron absorption.

 What Can Decrease Iron Test Levels?

A variety of factors can lower iron test levels. One of the most common causes is iron deficiency anemia, where there is not enough iron in the body to produce sufficient red blood cells. Other factors that can lower iron levels include chronic bleeding, pregnancy, certain medications, and certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease or cancer. A diet lacking in iron-rich foods can also contribute to low iron levels.

What Medications Can Affect the TIBC Blood Test?

The total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) blood test is a medical diagnostic tool used to evaluate an individual's iron levels. Certain medications can interfere with the accuracy of this test, leading to misleading results. Medications that can affect TIBC readings include hormonal contraceptives, corticosteroids, and antibiotics like chloramphenicol. It is important to inform your healthcare provider of any medications you are taking before undergoing a TIBC blood test to ensure accurate results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other tests might I have along with TIBC Test?

Along with the TIBC (Total Iron Binding Capacity) test, your healthcare provider may order other tests to help further evaluate your iron status and determine the cause of any abnormalities. Some of these tests may include:

1. Serum iron level: This test measures the amount of iron in your blood. It helps assess how much iron is available for binding to transferrin, a protein that transports iron throughout the body.

2. Ferritin level: Ferritin is a protein that stores iron in cells. Measuring ferritin levels can provide information about the body's iron stores and help diagnose iron deficiency or overload.

3. Transferrin saturation: This calculation determines the percentage of transferrin that is saturated with iron. It is calculated by dividing the serum iron level by the TIBC and multiplying by 100. Transferrin saturation can help evaluate how well your body is using its iron supply.

4. Hemoglobin and hematocrit levels: These tests measure the amount of red blood cells and their oxygen-carrying capacity, respectively. Abnormalities in these values can indicate anemia or other blood disorders.

5. Complete blood count (CBC): This test provides detailed information about different types of blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It can help identify various conditions, including anemia and infections.

6. Reticulocyte count: Reticulocytes are immature red blood cells that are released into circulation when there is increased demand for

What are normal results for a TIBC test?

The TIBC (Total Iron-Binding Capacity) test measures the amount of iron that can be bound to proteins in the blood. Normal results for a TIBC test can vary slightly depending on the laboratory and the specific reference range used, but generally fall within the following ranges:

- Total Iron-Binding Capacity: 240-450 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL)

- Transferrin Saturation: 20-50%

It is important to note that these ranges are provided as general guidelines, and individual results may vary. If you have concerns about your TIBC test results, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific situation.







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