High levels of this protein may suggest a disorder that has led to an excessive accumulation of iron, resulting in an overload of iron in the blood.
Ferritin is nothing more than a protein located in blood cells that stores intracellular iron.
A doctor may order a ferritin blood test, sometimes in conjunction with other tests, to check the iron levels in a person’s blood if there are suspicions when the diagnosis is made.
To diagnose a medical condition.
Your doctor may order a ferritin test to help diagnose conditions such as iron deficiency anemia or a low red blood cell count, hemochromatosis, a condition where there is too much iron in the body, liver disease, or Still’s a disease of the adult, restless legs syndrome among others.
To control a medical condition.
Suppose you have been diagnosed with a disorder that produces too much iron in the patient’s body, such as hemochromatosis or hemosiderosis. In that case, the doctor may use a ferritin test to monitor the condition and guide treatment.
A doctor may also order other blood tests to learn more about a person’s iron stores.
They can do tests to find out:
- Iron levels in the blood.
- Hemoglobin levels.
- Check the red blood cell numbers.
- The genetic test for hemochromatosis is the total iron-binding capacity, which measures transferrin levels, a protein that transports ferritin around the body.
- A family screening can be requested from the patient’s siblings or parents.
When used to diagnose a medical condition, various tests can be performed in conjunction with the ferritin test. These tests provide additional information about the amount of iron in the body.
A ferritin blood test follows a similar procedure to other blood tests.
Typically, to perform such an exam, a medical professional will begin by cleaning the skin around the puncture site with an alcohol-based solution and drawing the blood from a vein inside the elbow.
They can first wrap an elastic band around the upper arm to make the vein more prominent.
They will then insert the needle, which is attached to a vacuum collection device, into the vein.
People may feel a slight pinch when the needle enters the skin. Once they have collected the blood, the doctor will remove the needle and the elastic band if one is present.
Sometimes they will use cotton or a bandage to stop bleeding before labeling the blood sample and sending it to a lab for testing.
The blood collection process only takes a few minutes. It is unlikely that a person will experience some side effects; if they occur, they are usually very mild.
For example, some people may experience dizziness or nausea when seeing blood and slight bruising in the hours or days after the test.
After a doctor takes the blood sample, they will send it to a laboratory for further analysis.
Once the lab technicians analyze the drawn blood, they usually send the results within a few days after the test.
Ferritin blood test results can be expected, low, or high.
Normal ferritin levels
Results will be given in nanograms per milliliter (ng / mL) of blood and may vary slightly from laboratory to laboratory.
According to some sources, the normal ranges of ferritin in the blood are as follows:
- Adult males 20 to 250 ng / mL.
- Adult males from 10 to 120 ng / mL.
- Women over 40 years of age from 12 to 263 ng / mL.
- Newborns 25 to 200 ng / mL.
- 1-month-old babies 200 to 600 ng / mL
- Infants 2 to 5 months of age 50 to 200 ng / mL
- Children 6 months to 15 years 7 to 140 ng / mL
Low ferritin levels
Low ferritin levels can cause headaches and pale skin. A low ferritin result is strong evidence of an iron deficiency.
The body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transfers oxygen from the lungs around the body.
Without enough iron, a person can develop many diseases, one of the main ones being anemia. Iron is also necessary for average growth and development, and in metabolism, it plays a fundamental role in the production of hormones.
Iron deficiency anemia can cause the following symptoms:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pale skin.
- Short of breath.
- Soft spot.
Mild anemia, however, may not produce any symptoms.
High levels of ferritin
Higher than average ferritin levels can result from:
- Chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Excessive use of alcoholic beverages.
- Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer that affects the lymphatic system.
- Hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone.
- Leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow.
- Liver diseases.
- A porphyria is a group of disorders that affect the skin and nervous system.
- People who have received multiple blood transfusions can also show high ferritin levels.
- ‘Acute phase reaction’ for chronic infectious and inflammatory conditions, neoplasia.
- Diabetes mellitus, ‘metabolic syndrome,’ although less frequently.
- Very high ferritins are found in Still’s disease.
A result of higher than average ferritin levels will require further testing to discover the underlying cause and help doctors determine the best course of treatment.
Treatment to increase low ferritin levels
Doctors treat low ferritin levels with oral iron supplements.
For severe cases of anemia, a person may require intravenous iron treatment.
For best results, people should take iron supplements by mouth with a source of vitamin C to increase iron absorption.
They should avoid antacids, calcium supplements, and tea or coffee within 2 hours of an iron supplement.
Typically, people will require follow-up blood tests to check that their ferritin and iron levels have returned to normal.
Suppose the ferritin and iron levels in the blood do not return to normal after iron supplementation. In that case, a doctor may perform additional tests to determine the cause of the deficiency and treat it accordingly.
Other possible causes of an iron deficiency include fibroids or polyps, heavy menstrual periods, and peptic ulcers.
Treatment to lower high ferritin levels
A doctor may recommend phlebotomy to treat high ferritin levels.
Treatment for high ferritin levels depends on the underlying cause.
Iron overload from genetic hemochromatosis causes fatigue, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, arthritis (especially in the metacarpophalangeal joints of the first and second hands and large joints), type 1 or 2 diabetes, porphyria cutanea late, cardiomyopathy, hypothyroidism.
Occasionally, excess iron absorption can be controlled by a dietary restriction recommended by the treating physician.
A liver biopsy may be needed to establish iron overload’s degree and clinical significance.
Annual ferritin should be considered, especially in young men and postmenopausal women.
For hereditary hemochromatosis, doctors recommend that a person’s blood be drawn from their body regularly, called phlebotomy.
May require phlebotomy if iron is considered liver toxic.
The amount of blood a doctor draws and how often it is drawn vary depending on a person’s age, health, and ferritin levels.
Initially, the person may require the removal of around 500 ml of blood weekly until their ferritin levels return to normal.
These people will need continuous treatment to maintain normal ferritin levels in the blood.
People with other conditions that cause high levels of ferritin may require additional treatments, such as medications or procedures, depending on the cause.