Testing the blood for iron levels provides the doctor with information for the diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia or hemochromatosis. The test also provides information for the evaluation of nutritional status and determining if supplements and treatments are working, explains WebMD.
Iron deficiency anemia is more common in women because pregnancy, breastfeeding and monthly menstrual cycles can result in substantial loss of iron. Healthy adult men have enough iron reserves to last several years, even with a dietary insufficiency. In men and postmenopausal women, bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract is the most common cause of anemia, reports WebMD.
Doctors may recommend over-the-counter iron supplements for the treatment of iron deficiency anemia. While it takes several months to build up the lost reserves, taking these supplements usually improves the symptoms in about a week, according to Mayo Clinic. Some patients also require treatment for the underlying cause of their anemia.
Iron test results that are too high indicate hemochromatosis. This condition may be due to taking too many iron supplements or a hereditary condition. With early diagnosis of hemochromatosis through testing, doctors treat the condition with chelating agents or blood removal before it causes complications, according to WebMD. While hereditary hemochromatosis requires treatment for the rest of the patient’s life, the acquired form generally does not require further treatment after correction.