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Low iron level in the blood

Blood test
Low iron level in the blood
Last update: 08/04/2020

What does a low iron level in the blood mean?

  • Iron deficiency

What is the normal iron level in the blood?

If you need to know which are the iron reference ranges or you require more information about the role of iron in the blood, you can visit normal iron level in the blood

What does a low iron level in the blood mean?

Low values of iron in the blood can be due to a heavy bleeding because bleeding cause loss of iron. The situation affects specially to women in the menstruation. For that reason, women should intake more iron in diet than men do.

If TIBC (Total Iron-Binding Capacity) is in the normal range may be a sign of iron intake deficiency. If TIBC is low may be a chronic disease.

Low iron level in the blood cause usually weakness, fatigue, headache, dizziness or dyspnea.

Iron values are usually given in µg/dl but sometimes you can see those values in µmol/l following the International System of Units (SI). In case your values are in µmol/l you can convert them using this tool:

  • Mild iron deficiency (20 - 60 µg /dl in women and 30 - 70 µg /dl in men):

    Iron level in the blood is a bit low. It can be a consequence of a low iron intake in the diet or in case of women of blood loss by menstruation.

    You should keep an eye on your diet. You should take more food rich in iron such as red meat. If you are vegetarian you can take legumes. Follow these tips and take a new blood test in a few months and it is probably that your level return to normal range.

    If you feel fatigue or weakness, talk to your doctor.

  • Marked iron deficiency (< 20 µg /dl in women and < 30 µg /dl in men):

    Marked iron deficiency means that your iron reserves are non-existent. You may suffer a disorder known as iron deficiency anemia. You can feel fatigue, headache, dyspnea, and weakness.

    It can be a consequence of blood losses due to ulcers, blood in the urine or hemorrhoids. An iron malabsorption is also a possibility. In any case, you should visit your doctor and he will decide if additional screening tests are necessary.

    Your doctor, if he considers it appropriate, may prescribe you iron supplements to increase your iron blood level.

Which factors can reduce the iron level in the blood?

There are some circumstances than can reduce your iron level in the blood:

  • Low iron diet
  • Pregnancy
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Menstruation
  • Drugs

Which diseases can reduce your iron level in the blood?

What can I do to increase the iron level in the blood?

If you want to increase the iron level in the blood, you should eat iron-rich food. The following foods are rich in iron:

  • Meat (red meat, liver)
  • Fish and seafood
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Peaches

The most amount of iron is absorbed as FE2+ in the high part of the small intestine.

The trivalent form of iron and the Fe2+ component bound to the heme group require vitamin C to be absorbed. Adults absorb only 1 mg of iron daily, which is the approximate amount lost every day.

If your doctor considers it appropriate, he can give you iron supplements.

Where can I find more information about iron level in the blood?

You can visit our pages about:

Which values are considered a low iron level in the blood?

The following values are considered to be below the normal range:

IMPORTANT: These levels are expressed in µg/dL. They are an example of a healthy woman of about 45 years old with no known disease and not taking any medication. The ranges can be different depending on the laboratory or on your personal circumstances.

Mild iron deficiency
59 µg/dL58 µg/dL57 µg/dL56 µg/dL55 µg/dL54 µg/dL53 µg/dL52 µg/dL
51 µg/dL50 µg/dL49 µg/dL48 µg/dL47 µg/dL46 µg/dL45 µg/dL44 µg/dL
43 µg/dL42 µg/dL41 µg/dL40 µg/dL39 µg/dL38 µg/dL37 µg/dL36 µg/dL
35 µg/dL34 µg/dL33 µg/dL32 µg/dL31 µg/dL30 µg/dL29 µg/dL28 µg/dL
27 µg/dL26 µg/dL25 µg/dL24 µg/dL23 µg/dL22 µg/dL21 µg/dL20 µg/dL
Marked iron deficiency
19 µg/dL18 µg/dL17 µg/dL16 µg/dL15 µg/dL14 µg/dL13 µg/dL12 µg/dL
11 µg/dL10 µg/dL9 µg/dL8 µg/dL7 µg/dL6 µg/dL5 µg/dL4 µg/dL
3 µg/dL2 µg/dL1 µg/dL0 µg/dL    
Medically reviewed by Javier Muga Bustamante Ph.D. on 08/04/2020


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  • Tietz. Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry. Carl A. Burtis, Edward R. Ashwood, David E. Bruns, Barbara G. Sawyer. WB Saunders Company, 2008. Pag 516. ISBN: 978-0-7216-3865-2
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures with nursing diagnoses (8th ed), Jane Vincent Corbett, Angela Denise Banks, ISBN: 978-0-13-237332-6, Pag. 39.
  • Fairbanks VF, Klee GG. Biochemical aspects of hematology. In: Burtis CA, Ashwood ER, eds. Tietz textbook of clinical chemistry. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Company, 1999;1698-1703.

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