Iron isn’t just what you pump at the gym or what you use to get your clothes wrinkle-free. It’s a metal that you ingest through your diet and is especially vital for menstruating women, who lose iron through blood loss each month. If you are having symptoms of low iron, your physician may recommend a serum iron test to determine the iron levels in your blood. You can take steps to correct levels that are too high or too low.
Normal Iron Levels
Normal serum iron levels range from 60 to 170 micrograms per deciliter. The iron levels may vary based on the individual laboratory’s standards. Because your serum iron levels can vary throughout the day, your physician may recommend taking the serum iron test sample in the morning, when iron levels tend to be the highest.
Higher Iron Levels
Levels over 170 micrograms per deciliter are considered very high, according to MedlinePlus. This can cause symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea or constipation. If you have recently had a blood transfusion, your iron levels may become higher than normal. Other conditions that could cause iron levels that are higher than normal include hepatitis, a condition that affects your liver. Because high serum iron levels can cause organ damage, it is important to prevent this. If you are currently taking iron supplements, talk with your physician about the appropriate intake levels.
Lower Iron Levels
If your iron levels are below 60 micrograms per deciliter, this is considered lower than normal. Women are at the greatest risk for developing low iron levels or anemia, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Symptoms may include unexplained fatigue, always feeling cold and decreased work or school performance. Having heavy menstrual bleeding can cause your serum iron levels to dip too low. Also, if you are not taking in enough iron in your daily diet from sources such as fortified cereal, ground beef, beans, spinach, chicken and shrimp, your serum iron levels will be low. Women ages 19 to 50 years old should try to take in at least 18 milligrams of iron per day, recommends the Office of Dietary Supplements.
If you take medications such as estrogens and birth control pills, these can give you a higher iron reading, according to MedlinePlus. However, other medications such as methicillin -- a form of antibiotics -- and allopurinol and colchicine, which is used to treat gout, could lower your serum iron levels. Always tell your physician about all the medications you are taking to ensure your serum iron levels are reliable.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.