Low iron saturation: What you should know

bloodt test

When the amount of iron in the blood falls below the recommended level, it is known as low iron saturation. This condition is also known as iron deficiency.

The amount of iron in the blood is referred to as iron saturation. Iron is required for a variety of molecular functions, including muscle metabolism, oxygen transport, and connective tissue health.

The majority of people get enough iron from their diet.

However, certain people may have low iron levels, which can result in iron deficiency anemia. Due to a lack of iron, people with this condition have insufficient red blood cells in their blood.

This article will look at what low iron saturation is and the symptoms it might cause. It’ll also go over what causes low iron saturation, how a doctor can detect it, and what therapies are available.

Low iron saturation measurement

bloodt test

The level of iron in the blood can be measured using a variety of techniques.

When hemoglobin levels are low and consistent with anemia, doctors frequently test for low iron levels.

The typical range of iron saturation varies from person to person and changes over time based on one’s health.

A doctor can take three measurements to assess the amount of iron in the body.


Transferrin is one of the proteins found in the blood. This protein attaches to iron and transports it throughout the body and to the bone marrow, where it is converted into hemoglobin. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin.

The level of iron saturation in the blood can be determined by measuring transferrin. Transferrin has a typical range of 204–360 milligrams (mg) per deciliter. A value higher than this implies that the iron saturation level is low.

Total iron-binding capacity (TIBC)

The total amount of iron that a protein in the blood may bind is expressed as TIBC.

The level of iron saturation can also be determined by measuring TIBC. TIBC levels should be between 250 and 450 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dl). A result outside of this range could suggest anemia or low iron saturation.


The serum iron level can also be measured by a medical practitioner.

The serum iron test determines the amount of iron in a person’s blood. The normal serum iron range is:

  • 50–120 mcg/dl for children
  • 50–170 mcg/dl for females
  • 65–175 mcg/dl for males

Low iron saturation is indicated by values below these reference ranges.

Iron deficiency and iron depletion have various stages. These are some of them:

  • Mild deficiency or storage iron depletion: In the bone marrow, the concentration of iron and serum ferritin decreases.
  • Marginal deficiency or iron deficient erythropoiesis: The body’s iron stores are depleted, and the delivery of iron to erythropoietic cells is reduced, resulting in a fall in transferrin saturation. Hemoglobin levels, on the other hand, may remain within normal limits.
  • Iron deficiency anemia: The depletion of iron reserves causes a drop in hematocrit and hemoglobin levels. The hemoglobin concentrations are low and the red blood cells appear tiny.


For a variety of causes, a person’s iron saturation level may be low.

The following are some of the most common causes of low iron saturation:

  • intestinal and digestive conditions that cause problems with iron absorption, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer
  • heart failure
  • some medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, anticoagulants, and blood thinners, which people with chronic kidney disease often take
  • blood loss, such as from bleeding in the gastrointestinal or urinary tract
  • certain rare genetic conditions, such as hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia


A person with low iron saturation in the blood might develop a variety of iron deficiency symptoms. Among the most common are:

  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • weakness
  • heart palpitations
  • hair loss
  • restless legs
  • unusual cravings for nonfood items, such as ice or paint
  • pale skin
  • brittle nails or spooning of the nails
  • swollen or sore tongue
  • chest pain
  • poor concentration
  • tiredness
  • headaches

Risk factors

A person’s risk of poor iron saturation can be increased by a number of variables. Medical issues and lifestyle decisions, such as nutrition, are examples.

Low iron saturation can be caused by a variety of reasons, including:

  • Lifestyle factors: These include eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, eating a diet low in iron-rich foods, and undergoing frequent blood tests or donations.
  • Hormonal changes: People who experience heavy menstruation have a higher risk of becoming anemic. The risk also increases during pregnancy.
  • Age: Infants, young children, pregnant people, and those approaching menopause have an increased risk.
  • Genetics: Certain bleeding disorders, such as Von Willebrand’s disease, affect the blood’s ability to clot.


A physician may start the diagnosis procedure by performing a physical examination and looking for indications of low iron saturation, such as bleeding, spooning, or brittle nails. They may also listen to the heart for any abnormal heartbeats and feel the abdomen for liver and spleen enlargement.

Blood tests may be ordered by the doctor to confirm the diagnosis of low iron saturation.

These tests may involve the following:

  • A complete blood count: The blood cell count, hemoglobin level, hematocrit level, and mean corpuscular volume are all revealed by this blood test.
  • The amount of iron in the blood is measured with a serum iron test. The amount of iron in a person’s blood can indicate whether or not they have a low iron saturation level.
  • Peripheral smear: This test is examining red blood cells under a microscope to see if they are smaller and paler than normal.
  • Transferrin or TIBC test: The amount of transferrin in the blood will be determined by this test.


Low iron saturation levels are treated by increasing the iron saturation level until it falls within the normal range.

If a person’s iron saturation level is low, they may need to take pharmaceutical iron to raise it. Medicinal iron has a higher iron content than multivitamins. Iron deficiency in most adults necessitates 2–5 milligrams of iron per kilogram of body weight each day.

Iron supplements are generally not recommended for people who do not have iron deficiency anemia since too much iron might harm the organs.

Other vitamins that enhance iron absorption, such as vitamin C, can also be taken.

When the gastrointestinal tract is unable to absorb iron, intravenous iron delivery — that is, iron delivered through a blood vessel — may be required.

A red blood cell transfusion may be required for people with severe iron deficiency anemia. This method enhances iron saturation by rapidly increasing the amount of red blood cells and iron in the blood.

A person’s iron saturation levels can also be increased by making lifestyle adjustments. These modifications could include:

  • increasing the intake of vitamin C to help the body absorb iron
  • avoiding certain food items that reduce iron absorption, such as black tea
  • eating a diet rich in iron


Other issues may result from a low iron saturation level or iron insufficiency. The following are some of the possible complications:

  • developmental delays in children
  • depression
  • ncreased risk of infections
  • pregnancy complications, such as preterm delivery or giving birth to an infant with low weight
  • heart problems, such as irregular heartbeats or heart murmurs


Low iron saturation levels can be avoided by taking certain precautions.

They can, for example, consume a variety of iron-rich meals, such as:

  • leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli and kale
  • legumes, such as pinto beans and black-eyed peas
  • iron-enriched pasta, grains, rice, and cereals
  • meat and poultry
  • seafood

They can also eat a diet that encourages iron absorption in the blood. While vitamin C may boost iron absorption, calcium, according to scientists, reduces it.

Regularly screening for iron deficiency anemia can help people with established risk factors for low iron saturation.

By ensuring that newborns get their daily required iron intake, parents and caregivers can help prevent low iron saturation.

The recommended iron dietary iron intake, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is:

  • 11 mg for children aged 7–12 months
  • 7 mg for children aged 1–3 years
  • 10 mg for children aged 4–8 years

Iron-fortified formula can also assist a youngster in meeting his or her iron requirements. It is important to introduce iron-rich foods to a child after he or she has started eating solid foods.


The amount of iron in the blood is referred to as iron saturation. The term “low iron saturation” refers to a lack of iron in the blood. Transferrin attaches to iron and moves it around the body, whereas ferritin stores it.

Pregnancy, regular bleeding, heavy menstruation, and certain hereditary or gastrointestinal diseases are all possible causes of low iron saturation. A combination of assays, such as a complete blood count, a serum iron test, a transferrin test, and a TIBC test, will be used to identify low iron saturation.

Low iron saturation is usually treated with a high-iron diet, iron supplements, and medicinal iron.

Chronic iron deficiency can lead to heart difficulties, infections, and developmental delays, among other things.

Low iron saturation may often be avoided by eating a high-iron diet and ensuring that they get the recommended daily iron intake.


  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/
  • https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/vitamins-minerals/iron.html
  • https://www.hematology.org/education/patients/anemia/iron-deficiency
  • https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/iron-deficiency-anemia
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/low-iron-saturation
  • https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532928/
  • https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=transferrin