Ferritin Blood Test (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- Ferritin Blood Test Facts
- What is ferritin?
- What is the ferritin blood test?
- What are normal results for a ferritin test?
- What does an elevated ferritin level mean?
- What does a low ferritin level mean?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What is ferritin?
Ferritin is a body protein that is used to store iron. It is the major iron storage protein of the body, so measurement of ferritin levels is an indirect way to measure the amount of iron stored by 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The ferritin test uses venous blood that is withdrawn as for any routine blood test. No special preparation for the test is necessary.
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 test.
What are normal results for a ferritin test?
The results may vary slightly among laboratories, but in general, normal ferritin levels are 12-300 nanograms per milliliter of blood (ng/mL) for males and 12-150 ng/mL for females.
What does an elevated ferritin level mean?
High 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). This condition affects approximately one in 240 to 300 Caucasians in the Unites States. 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 3-4 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 then 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,
- fatigue, and
- darkening of skin.
The symptoms arise because iron accumulates in the organs and leads to destruction and loss of normal function.
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