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Having either too much or too little iron can cause unpleasant symptoms and have a serious impact on health. Thankfully, a simple iron test can help you figure out where you stand.

Usually, your doctor will order a lab test for you if they think it’s necessary. However, there are also a handful of iron testing services you can buy online. Some are at-home tests, while others still require a lab visit after you make your purchase.

Keep in mind that you can have low or high iron for many reasons. Because of this, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about your results, even if you decide to use an at-home test or go to a lab without a doctor’s order.

Below, we’ll go into what iron tests entail, our picks for best at-home iron testing, how to interpret your results, and when to see a doctor.

Iron is an essential mineral found in every cell of the body. It’s important to maintain adequate levels of it because iron produces hemoglobin, a protein found in your red blood cells, and serves to transport oxygen to your organs and tissues. It also delivers carbon dioxide back from your organs and tissues to your lungs.

If you have low hemoglobin levels, it signifies a low red blood cell count, also known as anemia, which can make you feel chronically tired and weak.

Some labs and products may also test your levels of ferritin, which can be elevated in people with chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, cancer, and liver disease, says Soma Mandal, MD, a board certified internist at Summit Health in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.

“However, ferritin should be used in conjunction with other tests such as serum iron and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) to determine if you are truly iron deficient or too high in iron,” Mandal says.

There are several tests related to iron, each testing for something slightly different.

  • Total iron binding capacity (TIBC) test. The TIBC test checks whether there’s too much or too little iron in the bloodstream. A doctor may order this test if they think you have anemia or too much iron in your blood, since both can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
  • Serum iron test. A doctor will usually order a serum iron test as a follow-up if your initial testing reveals abnormal results. It checks for abnormally high or low blood iron levels. An abnormal result may indicate that you have an underlying health condition or have consumed too much iron.
  • Ferritin test. The ferritin blood test checks the level of iron stored in your body. Both abnormally low and high ferritin levels can cause unpleasant symptoms.

Iron deficiency is a common cause of anemia. It simply means that your body doesn’t have enough of this all-important mineral.

One of the most common signs of iron deficiency is feeling very tired or low on energy. Other common symptoms include:

  • weakness
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • skin that’s paler than usual
  • shortness of breath

It’s easy to just accept tiredness as a universal fact of life, so one way to watch out for potentially low iron levels is to take note of whether you feel particularly weak and tired while exercising.

Iron overload, or hemochromatosis, is a condition where the body stores too much iron. This can be a result of either genetics or another issue such as:

  • alcohol dependency
  • family history of diabetes
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • use of iron or vitamin C supplements
  • frequent blood transfusions

Because the body is not able to excrete excess iron, this can lead to serious health problems including organ and tissue damage. This excess iron builds up in the liver, heart, skin, joints, pancreas, and pituitary gland.

Symptoms can include:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • weight loss
  • abdominal pain
  • low sex drive
  • joint pain
  • bronze or grey skin color

We reviewed each brand’s business and medical practices, checking:

  • their Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating, if they have one
  • if they’ve been involved in any lawsuits
  • if they provide help interpreting your results
  • whether they make any unacceptable health claims

All companies on the list also say they use accredited labs to process their testing kits.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$70
  • $$$ = over $70

Most affordable anemia test

Persona Labs Comprehensive Iron Profile Blood Test

  • Price: $$
  • Test type: lab visit required
  • Pros: inexpensive
  • Cons: need to visit a lab for testing, not available in some states (New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island)

The Persona Labs Comprehensive Iron Profile Blood Test includes ferritin and TIBC tests. You can order the test online, but you’ll need to visit a local lab for testing. Make sure to bring your printout to the lab.

While not as convenient as an at-home test, this allows you to skip the doctor’s visit. You can simply use the symptom checker on their website to connect with a doctor and obtain a prescription.

Results are usually available online within 1 to 2 days but wait times may take longer in some cases. You can also schedule a follow-up with one of Persona’s board certified doctors to discuss your results. Otherwise, be sure to visit your regular doctor for follow-ups.

There aren’t too many reviews for this service online, but the ones that exist are very positive. People say testing is quick and efficient. Many customers also applaud the excellent customer service.

Best at-home ferritin test

Cerascreen Ferritin Test

  • Price: $$
  • Test type: at-home blood test
  • Pros: can be done at home, quick delivery
  • Cons: only tests ferritin levels

Cerascreen offers ferritin blood tests. While this can be a useful test when used in conjunction with others, a ferritin test alone is a poor indicator of whether someone has an iron deficiency. Low ferritin means that your iron stores can be depleted more quickly, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re anemic.

Regardless of your results, you should talk with your doctor about any symptoms you’re experiencing. They can order additional tests to check for iron deficiency.

This is one of the few fully at-home iron-related test kits available on the market. You’ll need to take a blood sample yourself and then send it back for testing using the prepaid envelope.

When the lab finishes testing your sample, you’ll receive a report that includes recommendations for increasing or decreasing iron values. However, we don’t recommend making any big adjustments before talking with your doctor.

Reviews are mostly positive. People say the process isn’t complicated, but that it can take practice to prick your finger and get enough blood. Comments about customer service are mixed. Also, a handful of people say they never received their results.

Most affordable ferritin test

Labcorp On Demand Ferritin Blood Test

  • Price: $
  • Test type: lab visit required
  • Pros: affordable, accepts health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) payment
  • Cons: not as comprehensive as other tests

Labcorp offers ferritin blood tests that can tell you a bit about your body’s iron stores. If you’re deficient in ferritin, you may deplete iron more quickly than someone with typical ferritin stores. However, you should talk with your doctor when you receive the results. They can help you interpret them and confirm a diagnosis of anemia or other condition.

After you make your purchase, you’ll need to visit a Labcorp lab for this test. Make sure to bring along the requisition number emailed to you by the company. You’ll also need a photo ID. When your test results are ready, you can access them online via your Pixel by Labcorp account.

There are no reviews on the product page for Labcorp’s ferritin test. However, reviews on third-party sites detail billing issues and customer service complaints.

Most comprehensive anemia test

Labcorp On Demand Anemia Blood Test

  • Price: $$$
  • Test type: Lab visit required
  • Pros: comprehensive, accepts HSA and FSA payment
  • Cons: expensive

This test is a comprehensive option that includes not only ferritin, iron, and TIBC tests, but also:

Like the Labcorp Ferritin Blood Test, this test requires a trip to a Labcorp lab after you make your purchase. Be sure to bring your requisition number and photo ID.

You’ll also need to fast for 12 hours before the test.

Best at-home iron test

LetsGetChecked Iron Test

  • Price: $$$
  • Test type: At-home blood test
  • Pros: every step can be done at home, doesn’t require an in-person lab visit
  • Cons: expensive, finger-prick test may not be as accurate

This is a fully at-home finger-prick test meant to determine if you’re at risk of iron deficiency anemia or iron overload. It identifies your iron blood levels and tests for iron, ferritin, TIBC, and transferrin saturation.

After completing the test, LetsGetChecked instructs users to mail the sample the same day using the prepaid shipping label provided. Your online results, which you can access via a secure app, will be available within 2 to 5 days.

If your test shows that you are iron deficient or experiencing iron overload, a nurse will call to discuss your results. This test is also approved by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, but not the Food and Drug Administration.

ProductPriceTypeProsCons
PersonaLabs Comprehensive Iron Profile Blood Test$$Lab test– on the affordable side
– it’s comprehensive; tests for anemia, helps diagnose autoimmune disease or related cancers, and can detect hemochromatosis
– need to visit a lab
– not available in New Jersey, New York, or Rhode Island
Cerascreen Ferritin Test$$Home test– conveniently test at home
– fast delivery
– only tests ferritin levels which may not help diagnose iron deficiency
– have to prick your own finger
Labcorp On Demand Ferritin Blood Test$Lab test– affordable
– accepts HSA and FSA
– need to visit a lab
– only tests ferritin levels which may not help diagnose iron deficiency
Labcorp On Demand Anemia Blood Test$$$Lab test– more comprehensive than the company’s ferritin test
– accepts HSA and FSA payment
– need to visit a lab
– more expensive
LetsGetChecked Iron Test$$$Home test– can be tone 100% from home (aside from any follow-up appointments with your doctor)
– more comprehensive than the Cerascreen at-home test
– expensive
– have to prick your own finger

Serum iron

A typical range for serum iron is 60 to 170 micrograms of iron per deciliter of blood (mcg/dL).

If numbers are higher than that, that means you have too much iron in your blood. Over time, having too much iron in the blood can lead to serious complications, such as diabetes, liver damage, and heart failure.

A low result means you lack iron, which may be due to your diet or because your body can’t absorb it properly. Heavy periods can also cause iron deficiency.

TIBC

A standard TIBC range is between 250 and 450 mcg/dL.

A high TIBC value usually means that you’re low on iron. That might be because you:

  • don’t consume enough iron through your diet
  • are menstruating or have very heavy periods
  • are pregnant

If the TIBC value is below 250 mcg/dL, you have too much iron in your blood. This may be due to hemolytic anemia or iron poisoning. Other underlying medical conditions can also cause low TIBC values. Talk with your doctor if you notice high or low TIBC results.

Ferritin

If your results show low ferritin levels, you may have an iron deficiency. But a ferritin test isn’t enough to confirm a diagnosis.

Talk with your doctor about your test results. They can help you interpret the data and may recommend further testing.

Make an appointment with a doctor if you think you’re experiencing the symptoms of iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia may include:

You may be at higher risk of iron deficiency anemia if you have heavy periods or a digestive disorder such as Crohn’s disease.

What is an iron test?

Different types of tests check the iron levels in your body. A serum iron test measures how much iron there is in your blood. A TIBC test detects how efficiently iron attaches to proteins in the blood. A ferritin test determines how much iron is stored in your body.

A doctor may order all of these tests to get a complete picture of the iron levels in your body. This can help them diagnose conditions like anemia or other underlying problems.

How is an iron test done?

An iron test requires a blood sample. Most of the time, this involves getting your blood drawn in a lab setting like you would with a routine blood test. It’s a quick process that doesn’t usually hurt too much.

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?

If you’re iron deficient, you may experience symptoms like:

  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid heart rate

What are the treatments for iron deficiency?

Doctors will usually treat a deficiency by prescribing supplements or recommending diet changes. If you have a condition that impairs your body’s ability to absorb iron, your doctor may suggest intravenous iron. In cases of severe iron deficiency anemia, you may need a blood transfusion.

Are at-home iron tests accurate?

According to Mandal, the safest and most accurate way to check your iron is to have your blood drawn and analyzed by a lab. Finger-prick tests may offer less accuracy. In fact, one study showed that blood samples from finger-prick tests were less concentrated than lab-taken samples, and blood counts can vary from drop to drop.

Aside from technique of possibly not getting an adequate sample with finger pricking, home tests are generally as accurate as lab tests since they are also analyzed by a lab.

While it’s possible to get tested for iron deficiency without seeing your doctor, we don’t recommend changing anything about your lifestyle or diet without first talking with a medical professional.

Not all iron tests give a complete picture. A ferritin test, for example, may suggest that you’re low in iron, but further testing is required to confirm a diagnosis.

If you get your iron levels checked and receive abnormal results, share them with your doctor. They may order more tests or help you decide on a treatment that’s right for you.


Steph Coelho is a freelance writer with chronic migraine who has a particular interest in health and wellness. When she’s not click-clacking away on her keyboard, she’s probably nose-deep in a good book.