The iron profile includes a measurement of serum iron and transferrin levels as well as a calculation of transferrin (iron) saturation.
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin and several other important proteins. A lack of iron caused by a dietary deficiency, intestinal malabsorption or digestive bleeding can lead to a decrease in hemoglobin levels resulting in anemia (chronic fatigue, weakness, pallor, dizziness). More rarely, there may be an excess of iron, which then tends to settle into tissues and interfere with their functioning (hemochromatosis).
Most of the iron in the human body is found in the hemoglobin of red blood cells. Small amounts of iron are found in serum and are bound to transferrin, a protein that transports iron between stores (especially the liver) and bone marrow, where hemoglobin is synthesized. The interpretation of serum iron levels must take into account the saturation level of transferrin, a protein produced by the liver.
The iron profile is often completed by testing the level of ferritin, the main protein that stores iron in tissues. (Refer to the sections concerning iron, transferrin, ferritin and iron saturation.)