Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC) Test: About, Preparation, & Test Results

TIBC blood test- Healthians
Contributed by- Rachana Arya

What is the TIBC test?

Total iron binding capacity (TIBC) is a blood test to see how much iron is available in your blood. Iron moves through the bloodstream attached to a protein called transferrin. The TIBC test is used to determine how well transferrin is able to carry iron to the other parts of the body. Given that the test measures the blood’s capacity to bind iron with transferrin, it is an essential test used for the diagnosis of iron-deficiency anaemia and other disorders of iron metabolism.


Who should get a TIBC test? 

This laboratory test may be recommended by your healthcare practitioner when you have symptoms that indicate that you may have too little iron (deficiency) or too much iron (overload) in the body.

Symptoms of iron deficiency include:

  • Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
  • Getting frequent infections
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling and soreness of the tongue and mouth
  • Noticeable heartbeats
  • Headache, especially with activity
  • Brittle nails or hair loss


Symptoms of too much iron can include:

  • Unusual tiredness
  • Joint pain
  • Belly pain


Why is the TIBC test needed?

The importance of the TIBC test to health cannot be overstated. The level of iron in the blood drops when there are insufficient levels of iron in the body. If left untreated, its decrease may result in iron-deficient erythropoiesis and still further decreases may lead to iron deficiency anaemia. 

It is important to note that iron deficiency anaemia does not go away on its own and calls for doctor’s consultation for a diagnosis instead of taking iron supplements on your own. Overloading the body with iron can be dangerous as excess iron accumulation can damage your liver and cause other complications.

You may need this test to determine if dietary changes and/or oral supplements may be needed to help address conditions like fatigue, palpitations, and pain in joints. The test may also be needed to look at your liver or other conditions that cause iron to below, such as blood loss or pregnancy.


What does the TIBC test result mean?

Normal value range is:

  • Iron: 60-170 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or 10.74-30.43 micromoles per liter (micromol/L)
  • TIBC: 240-450 mcg/dL or 42.96-80.55 micromol/L
  • Transferrin saturation: 20% to 50%

Lower-than-normal TIBC may mean:

  • Anaemia 
  • Lower levels of protein in the blood (hypoproteinemia)
  • Inflammation
  • Liver disease, such as cirrhosis
  • Malnutrition
  • Sickle cell anaemia

Higher than normal TIBC may mean that the body’s iron supplies are low. This can occur with:

  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Pregnancy (late)


How is the TIBC test done?

The TIBC test requires a simple blood test to ascertain the amount of iron in the blood. It requires a small sample of blood which is typically drawn from a vein on the inside of the elbow. It is advisable to not eat or drink for 12 hours before the test; in this case, only water is allowed. You may be required the dosage of certain medications that can affect the results of the test such as Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), birth control pills, chloramphenicol, fluorides, etc.


Check your TIBC levels now!


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