As you know, we take a finger-prick sample of your blood before your donation that is placed in a handheld machine to check your haemoglobin level. Haemoglobin is the protein in our red blood cells that has the amazing ability to carry oxygen in the blood. We test your haemoglobin level to make sure you have sufficient red cells in your body to spare for the donation. This test is not a measure of your iron levels, although donors and our staff sometimes mix these words up. Haemoglobin contains iron, but is not necessarily a reflection of all the iron you have as it is used and stored in other parts of the body besides the red blood cells. This is demonstrated in people with conditions like hereditary haemochromatosis who have very high iron levels with normal haemoglobin results. Ferritin refers to the amount of iron stored in the body, which can be measured by a blood test.
It is well known that regular blood donation can deplete your iron levels through the loss of red blood cells. People who donate regularly, particularly women, will be prone to iron deficiency that can cause symptoms such as tiredness and fatigue. WCBS will be introducing periodic ferritin testing of our donors who pass their haemoglobin screening to make sure their iron stores are not depleted. This will hopefully start in early 2022 and donors will be notified if their ferritin levels are too low or high.
For any queries regarding haemoglobin or ferritin testing, please contact Dr Caroline Hilton (Head – Medical Division) at firstname.lastname@example.org.