Often in routine tests, Complete Blood Count or Heamogram is tested which gives an indication if an individual is suffering from Anaemia. Anaemia is a less understood condition by the masses and involves a battery of tests to reveal the underlying condition. Anaemia could either be due to nutritional deficiencies, abnormal red blood cells or any other conditions like liver or kidney disorder that could lead to iron deficiency. Tests like TIBC and Transferrin (which is one of the many tests in serum iron studies) is used to assess iron deficiency or overload. Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) is a medical laboratory test that measures the blood’s capacity to bind iron with transferrin. It is performed by drawing blood and measuring the maximum amount of iron that it can carry, which indirectly measures transferrin since transferrin is the most dynamic carrier.
TIBC is usually ordered along with other iron tests when the doctor suspects iron deficiency or overload. One or more tests may be ordered when there are signs of anaemia, especially when a CBC is performed and shows red blood cells that are microcytic and hypochromic and the haemoglobin and haematocrit levels are low.
Signs and symptoms of Iron Deficiency include fatigue, tiredness that is often severe and chronic (which does not go away despite enough rest), dizziness, weakness, instances of black out, headache, pale skin.
In cases where there are Iron Overload, it tends to worsen over a period of time since Iron tends to get accumulated in cells and tissues. Symptoms include joint pain, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, lack of energy, abdominal pain, hair loss etc.
Iron and TIBC are also ordered when there is a case of suspected iron poisoning. This is most common in children who accidentally overdose with vitamins or other supplements containing iron.
Lack of proteins in the diet also leads to Anaemia and hence doctors usually order tests like Pre-albumin to evaluate a person’s nutritional status.
Often Iron Studies are done in combination and as profiles (battery of 3-4 tests) that give the exact cause of the condition.
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