What is ferritin?
Ferritin is the major protein that stores iron and releases it when the body demands iron. Ferritin is usually found in the body's cells. The small amount of ferritin that is circulated in the bloodstream is the depiction of the total amount of iron stored in the body. Iron is an essential trace element required by our body to produce healthy red blood cells. Our body cannot produce iron of its own, so it has to absorb iron from the food we eat. In healthy people, most of the body's absorbed iron is incorporated into the hemoglobin of red blood cells. The remaining amount of iron is stored as ferritin or as hemosiderin. A minimal amount is used to produce other proteins like myoglobin and some enzymes. Ferritin is primarily found in the liver, but a small amount of ferritin is also found in the spleen, bone marrow, and skeletal muscles. When the amount of iron does not match the body's needs, the level of iron in the bloodstream drops, iron stores are depleted, and the level of ferritin decreases. Insufficient levels of iron in the body can cause iron-deficiency anemia.
What is ferritin test?
A ferritin test is a type of blood test that measures the amount of ferritin level in the blood. The test, together with other tests like Iron level and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), is often ordered to detect low iron or too high iron level in the blood.
When is the test ordered?
A ferritin test, plus other iron tests, may be ordered when a Complete blood count (CBC) test show low levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit in the blood, suggesting iron deficiency even though the other symptoms may not have appeared yet.
A ferritin test is recommended by a doctor when a person developed symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. Symptoms include:
Doctors may also recommend ferritin test if they suspect any symptom of iron overload. Sign and symptoms of iron load may vary from person to person. Symptoms include:
What are the preparations needed for the test?
A ferritin test is a normal blood test that requires no special preparation, such as fasting. A person can eat or drink normally prior to the test. However, the doctor will provide important information before the test.
What happens during the test?
A laboratory technician/phlebotomist/healthcare provider will insert a needle in the arm’s vein to collect the blood sample. The person may feel a little sting when the needle goes in and out from the vein.
How is the Test result evaluated?
Ferritin blood test results are evaluated to check whether an individual's ferritin level lies in a healthy range.
Healthy/ normal reference range
According to https://www.healthline.com/health/ferritin#results, ferritin test may ranges as follows:
Men- 20 to 500 ng/mL
Women-20 to 200 ng/Ml
Note: Different laboratories may have difference ranges for the ferritin levels in the blood.
Lower than the normal range
If the ferritin levels are below average, it indicates iron deficiency. It means that the body is not getting enough iron from the diet, and the person can be anemic. There can be various causes for low ferritin level, such as:
Higher than the normal range
If the ferritin level is above the normal range, iron overload (too much iron) is in the body. However, it requires some additional tests to diagnose such conditions.
Causes of high ferritin levels include:
Ferritin is an acute-phase reactant protein. This means whenever the body experiences inflammation, ferritin level get raised. That is why ferritin levels can be high in people having a liver disease and certain types of cancer.
Note: Always consult your doctor before getting the test done.