Ferritin blood test facts
- The ferritin test measures the level of ferritin, the major iron storage protein in the body.
- The ferritin test is a simple blood test.
- High levels of ferritin can indicate an iron storage disorder, such as hemochromatosis, or a chronic disease process.
- Low levels of ferritin are indicative of iron deficiency, which causes anemia (a reduction in the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells).
What is ferritin?
Ferritin is the major iron storage protein of the body. Ferritin levels can be used to indirectly measure how much iron is in the body. Ferritin has the shape of a hollow sphere that permits the entry of a variable amount of iron for storage (as ferric hydroxide phosphate complexes).
What is the ferritin blood test?
The ferritin test uses venous blood to measure ferritin levels. The test is sometimes ordered together with other tests to help evaluate the body's iron stores, such as an iron level or a total iron binding capacity (TIBC) test.
How does one prepare for a ferritin blood test?
The ferritin test uses venous blood that is withdrawn as for any routine blood test. No special preparation for the test is necessary. Fasting is not necessary.
How is the test performed?
A needle attached to a vacuum collection device is inserted into a vein, often a vein in the antecubital fossa (crease of the elbow), after the area has been cleaned. Venous blood can also be taken from other sites.
What are the potential side effects of a ferritin blood test?
The ferritin blood test is a routine blood test and typically does not cause side effects. Mild bruising at the venipuncture site can occur infrequently.
What does an elevated ferritin level mean?
Higher-than-normal levels of ferritin can be indicative of an iron storage disorder such as hemochromatosis.
Hereditary hemochromatosis is an inherited (genetic) disorder in which there is excessive accumulation of iron in the body (iron overload). In individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis, the daily absorption of iron from the intestines is greater than the amount needed to replace losses. Since the normal body cannot increase iron excretion, the absorbed iron accumulates in the body.
- A man with hemochromatosis can accumulate 20 grams of total body iron by age 40 to 50 (the normal iron content for the body is 3 to 4 grams). The excess iron deposits in the joints, liver, testicles, and heart, which causes damage to these organs, and causes signs and symptoms of hemochromatosis.
- Women with hemochromatosis accumulate iron at a slower rate than men because they lose more iron than men due to iron loss from menstruation. Therefore, they typically develop signs and symptoms of organ damage due to excess iron 10 years later than men.
People with hereditary hemochromatosis may have no symptoms or signs (and have normal longevity), or they can have severe symptoms and signs of iron overload that include:
- sexual dysfunction,
- heart failure,
- joint pains,
- liver cirrhosis,
- diabetes mellitus,
- weight loss,
- fatigue, and
- darkening of skin.
The symptoms arise because iron accumulates in the organs and leads to destruction and loss of normal function.
What does a low ferritin level mean?
Lower-than-normal serum ferritin levels are seen in iron deficiency. Without enough iron, the body cannot produce sufficient levels of hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen. Iron deficiency anemia is the result. Mild anemia may not produce symptoms at all. More serious cases of iron deficiency anemia can produce symptoms such as:
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Aken'Ova, Y.A., I. Adeyefa, and M. Okunade. "Ferritin and serum iron levels in adult patients with sickle cell anaemia at Ibadan, Nigeria." Afr J Med Med Sci 26.1-2 Mar-Jun 1997: 39-41.
Dominiczak, M.H., and J.I. Broom. "Vitamins and minerals." In: Baynes JW, Dominiczak MH, eds. Medical Biochemistry, 4th Ed. Elsevier Saunders, 2014: chap 11.
Ginder, G.D. "Microcytic and hypochromic anemias." In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine, 25th Ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders, 2016: chap 159.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Ferritin Blood Test - Results
Did you have a ferritin blood test? What were the results, and what condition did the test help diagnose.Post View 100 Comments
Ferritin Blood Test - Experience
Please share your experience with ferritin blood tests.Post View 16 Comments
Ferritin Blood Test - Results
Did you have a ferritin blood test? What were the results, and what condition did the test help diagnose.Post View 23 Comments
Top Ferritin Blood Test Related Articles
Anemia Symptoms and SignsAnemia is a disease marked by low numbers of red blood cells. Low iron or underlying disease, like cancer, may be to blame. Treatment can resolve anemia.
AnemiaAnemia is the condition of having less than the normal number of red blood cells or less than the normal quantity of hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is, therefore, decreased. There are several types of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia (the most common type), sickle cell anemia, vitamin B12 anemia, pernicious anemia, and aplastic anemia. Symptoms of anemia may include fatigue, malaise, hair loss, palpitations, menstruation, and medications. Treatment for anemia includes treating the underlying cause for the condition. Iron supplements, vitamin B12 injections, and certain medications may also be necessary.
CancerCancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
CirrhosisCirrhosis of the liver refers to a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue caused by alcohol and viral hepatitis B and C. This disease leads to abnormalities in the liver's ability to handle toxins and blood flow, causing internal bleeding, kidney failure, mental confusion, coma, body fluid accumulation, and frequent infections.
Symptoms include yellowing of the skin (jaundice), itching, and fatigue.
The prognosis is good for some people with cirrhosis of the liver, and the survival can be up to 12 years; however the life expectancy is about 6 months to 2 years for people with severe cirrhosis with major complications.
Diabetes MellitusDiabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Dizziness (Dizzy)Dizziness is a symptom that often applies to a variety of sensations including lightheadedness and vertigo. Causes of dizziness include low blood pressure, heart problems, anemia, dehydration, and other medical conditions. Treatment of dizziness depends on the cause.
HemoglobinHemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein molecule in the blood, specifically in the red blood cells. High hemoglobin count may be caused by dehydration, smoking, emphysema, tumors, or abuse of Epogen. Low levels of hemoglobin may be caused by anemia, blood loss, nutritional deficiency, bone marrow problems, chemotherapy, kidney failure, or sickle cell disease.
Iron and Iron DeficiencyIron is a mineral our bodies need. Iron deficiency is a condition resulting from not enough iron in the body. It is the most common nutritional deficiency and the leading cause in the US. Iron deficiency is caused due to increased iron deficiency from diseases, nutritional deficiency, or blood loss and the body's inability to intake or absorb iron. Children, teen girls, pregnant women, and babies are at most risk for developing iron deficiency. Symptoms of iron deficiency include feeling weak and tired, decreased work or school performance, slow social development, difficulty maintaining body temperature, decreased immune function, and an inflamed tongue. Blood tests can confirm an iron deficiency in an individual. Treatment depends on the cause of the deficiency. Proper diet that includes recommended daily allowances of iron may prevent some cases of iron deficiency.
Liver disease can be cause by a variety of things including infection (hepatitis), diseases, for example, gallstones, high cholesterol or triglycerides, blood flow obstruction to the liver, and toxins (medications and chemicals). Symptoms of liver disease depends upon the cause and may include nausea, vomiting, upper right abdominal pain, and jaundice. Treatment depends upon the cause of the liver disease.
Liver Disease QuizWhat is liver disease? Take the Liver Disease Quiz and test your knowledge about this organ and its function.
Pernicious AnemiaPernicious anemia is a blood disorder in which the body does not make enough red blood cells due to a lack of vitamin B12 in the blood. Pernicious anemia can develop from a lack of a protein that helps the body absorb vitamin B12, not getting enough B12 in the diet, and certain intestinal conditions that interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12 such as Crohn's disease, celiac sprue, or ulcerative colitis. There is no cure for pernicious anemia, thus treatment is life-long.
Pernicious Anemia PicturePernicious anemia is a disease where large, immature, nucleated cells (megaloblasts, which are forerunners of red blood cells) circulate in the blood, and do not function as blood cells; it is a disease caused by impaired uptake of vitamin B-12 due to the lack of intrinsic factor (IF) in the gastric mucosa. It was termed "pernicious" because before it was learned that vitamin B-12 could treat the anemia, most people that developed the disease died from it.
Rheumatoid ArthritisRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease. The 16 characteristic early RA signs and symptoms include the following.
- Both sides of the body affected (symmetric)
- Joint deformity
- Joint pain
- Joint redness
- Joint stiffness
- Joint swelling
- Joint tenderness
- Joint warmth
- Loss of joint function
- Loss of joint range of motion
- Many joints affected (polyarthritis)
RA SlideshowWhat is rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Learn about juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Discover rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
RA QuizHow is rheumatoid arthritis different from other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and gout? Take the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Quiz to rest your RA IQ.