A ferritin blood test quantifies the amount of ferritin in your blood. Ferritin is a protein that helps your cells to store iron. Iron is necessary to synthesize healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells aid to carry oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is also important for bone marrow, healthy muscles and organs including brain development in children.
An excess or deficiency of iron in your body can lead to severe health problems, if not treated. A ferritin blood test can show the quantity of iron stored in your body.
What is it used for?
Assist in the diagnosis or rule out conditions related to iron levels, including:
- Hemochromatosis (also known as iron overload)
- Iron deficiency anaemia, insufficient red blood cells due to lack of iron
- Liver diseases (most of the ferritin is stored in the liver)
- Restless legs syndrome, a tingling or burning sensation that may be caused by iron deficiency
- Adult Still disease (also referred as adult-onset Still disease or AOSD), a rare disease that causes fever, joint pain and rashes typically with high ferritin levels
- Keep track of chronic (long-lasting) conditions like cancer, kidney disease and autoimmune diseases that may affect your irons levels.
If you are being treated for iron-related problems, the test may be used to assess how well the treatment is working.
When to do ferritin blood test?
You could require this test, if you have symptoms of either too low or too high levels of iron.
Symptoms of too low iron levels include:
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or fatigue
- Arrhythmia (a problem with the rhythm of your heartbeat)
Symptoms of too high iron levels include:
- Weakness or fatigue
- Joint pain
- Loss of desire in sex or erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Abdominal pain
- Change in skin color
You may also require this test if the results of previous blood tests reveal that you have low levels of haematocrit or haemoglobin.
Preparation for the test
Before your test, your doctor may ask you to fast for 12 hours (i.e., not eat or drink anything). Usually, the test is conducted in the morning.
What do the results indicate?
- Low Ferritin level: may mean you have iron deficiency anaemia or other diseases related to low iron levels. Iron deficiency anaemia is a most prevalent type of anaemia which is caused when your body does not produce enough red blood cells. Without treatment, it might result in cardiac problems, infections, slow growth, brain development in children and other health problems.
- High Ferritin level: may mean you have excessive iron in your body. Diseases that cause increased iron levels include Alcohol use disorder, Liver disease, Hyperthyroidism and Hemochromatosis.
- If your ferritin results are abnormal, it doesn’t always mean you have a medical condition that requires treatment. Your ferritin levels may change as a result of taking certain medications.