6 tests to check if you are anemic

Anemia is a serious condition in India that mainly affects women and children. According to statistics, one in every two women suffers from anemia. Anemia is a silent killer, contributing to about 20 percent of maternal deaths. It is also common in children under the age of 5 years.

Anemia occurs when your body does not have enough red blood cells (RBCs) or if you are deficient in hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to the cells. The main reason for prevalence of anemia is poor understanding about the condition and lack of awareness about its complications.

‘The key symptoms of anemia include weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, confusion, depression, pale skin and loss of consciousness,’ says Dr Abha Shroff, chief pathologist and director at Disha Pathology Labs, Mumbai. These symptoms can be easily confused with symptoms of other diseases, and therefore can lead to complications. But with early diagnosis, you can get rid of it completely.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of anemia

Dr Shroff highlights the below 6 blood tests included in anemia profiling that you should take if you have any of the above mentioned symptoms. ‘Cost of all these tests would be approximately Rs 1600,’ she mentions.

1. Complete Blood Count (CBC): ’Anemia often goes undiagnosed. It is usually detected by doing a CBC (Complete Blood Count) which forms the baseline testing for all diseases and is included in an annual health checkup,’ says Dr Shroff. A complete blood count is a key test that doctors use to check if a person is anemic. It is a complete profile of your blood cells including red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs) and platelets. It also checks if your hemoglobin levels are normal.

2. Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is an important factor required for making RBCs. The normal range for vitamin B12 is between 200 and 900 pg/mL (picograms per milliliter). Lower than 200 pg/ml of vitamin B12 can lead to pernicious anemia or megaloblastic anemia.

3. Serum iron test: Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. Iron is an important mineral required to make hemoglobin. The average normal range of serum iron levels are 60-170 mcg/dL. (Men: 65 to 176 mcg/dL, Women: 50 to 170 μg/dL, Children: 50 to 120 μg/dL).

4. TIBC test: TIBC stands for total iron binding capacity (TIBC). Iron does not move freely in your blood. It is attached to a blood protein called transferrin. If you are deficient in iron, the binding capacity of transferrin will be high. The TIBC test is therefore an indirect measure of checking iron levels in the blood. The reference range for TIBC is between 240 and 450 mcg/dL.

5. Transferrin Saturation/ Iron saturation test: Serum iron alone cannot give you an accurate measure of the cause of anemia. A TIBC test along with iron saturation is a better way to determine iron deficiency anemia. The transferrin saturation test is performed to check how well iron is carried through the blood in your body. If you are deficient in iron, tranferrin will be less saturated. The test is actually the percentage of the ratio of your serum iron levels to your TIBC levels. The reference range is 20-50%. A lower than 20% saturation indicates iron deficiency anemia.

6. Ferritin test: Apart from the iron that circulates throughout your blood, your body also stores iron in various organs, mainly the liver, spleen and muscles. But stored iron is attached to a protein called ferritin, instead of transferin. The normal range of serum ferritin is 30–300 ng/mL for males and 6–115 ng/mL for females.

The below table shows tests for anemia profiling with significance, reference range and indications