Patients often wonder if they have anaemia and what their pathology results actually mean. Whilst this article is not meant to replace an appointment with your healthcare practitioner or serve as a diagnostic tool, it may be helpful to get an understanding of the basic parameters covered in iron study tests, given that iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia. Test results should always be considered in conjunction with symptoms and physical examination findings.
Before we jump into pathology, it is important to remember that several factors can impact on accurate test results.
- To ensure your results are as accurate as possible, remember iron studies should always be completed fasted ideally following an overnight fast. This will mean within 5-12 hours.
- Avoid strenuous exercise, alcohol and iron containing supplements for at least 24 hours before a blood test as these can interfere with the test results.
- Avoid doing iron tests when you have an active infection (i.e. common cold or influenza) as the body can increase ferritin levels as a smart way of hiding iron from pathogens.
- Ideally your healthcare practitioner will also include a highly sensitive C-reactive protein measurement in the same blood test to check on your level of inflammation. Inflammation can impact on iron status.
What do iron pathology results mean?
Ferritin- this is our iron storage depot in our liver. Ferritin provides an indication of how much iron your body is storing or not storing.
Transferrin- is a protein that helps carry iron (and other divalent minerals and heavy metals) around the body. Think of it like a tram that iron rides around in. Transferrin helps transport iron from the liver out to the tissues. It reflects your body’s hunger for iron.
Transferrin saturation %- this measures the number of seats on the tram taken up by iron and reflects your ability to deliver iron out to the tissues.
CRP (C-reactive protein) is an inflammatory marker and may indicate pseudo iron deficiency.
Always consult with a healthcare practitioner if you suspect you may be getting low in iron before taking iron supplements as high iron can also be problematic. A holistic practitioner can also help identify the possible causes of your iron deficiency and help prevent you from being sidelined from your sport in the future. As a general rule of thumb, athletes who have experienced low iron in the past, should get their iron status checked every 3-6 months.
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