In Alcoholism, Anemia, Cardiovascular System, Iron, Pernicious Anemia

Many of us see “ferritin” on the tests our doctor orders, but what is it, and why is it important?

A protein inside your cells, ferritin stores iron for the body’s use at a later time. When one gets a ferritin blood test [ ] done, the physician can indirectly measure how much iron is in the blood. This test is also known by the name “serum ferritin level.” 

How the Ferritin Blood Test is Administered

In order for the test to be administered, the physician or lab needs a sample of your blood. To prepare for the ferritin blood lab, one does not need to fast; in most cases, it is ok to eat breakfast before the lab or get drawn later in the day.  If administered with other tests, however, your doctor may want you to come to the lab fasting.

Having a blood sample taken, can cause moderate pain to some while others only feel the needle pin prick. There may be bruising but this should soon go away in most healthy patients. The ordering physician should be informed if bruising persists.

Other Tests Your May Need Along with the Serum Ferritin Level

There are a number of tests a physician may order in addition to the ferritin blood lab [ ]. These include:

-Hemoglobin: This blood test measures the protein on red blood cells that transports oxygen.

-Serum iron level: This may be used in addition to ferritin to give a better impression of total iron.

-Complete blood count or CBC: This test looks at red and white blood cells and their components.  

-Total iron binding capacity or TIBC: Another study in looking at a person’s ability to store and transport iron.

-Zinc protoporphyrin: This test identifies any part of the hemoglobin that is low on iron. When iron is low, zinc may attach to the protoporphyrin instead.

When to Get Checked

The ferritin blood lab is administered usually when a physician suspects a patient may be low on blood iron levels or be anemic. The symptoms that a physician looks for include: 

-Intense fatigue or dizziness

-Heavy menstruation

-Paling of the skin

-Gastrointestinal bleeding

If one has been treated for iron deficiency, the physician may order this test to check treatment progress. Additionally, babies and toddlers who consume large amounts of whole cow’s milk and children who ingest a lot of ice may also be tested.

Understanding the Results

Ferritin blood lab results are measured in nanograms per milliliter. Since lab results can be affected by numerous variables, always make sure to consult a physician to better understand results. Even if one is outside the normal range, the patient may still be healthy. 

The following are normal ferritin blood levels, though reference ranges may vary slightly by lab.

-12 to 300 ng/mL for adult males

-10 to 150 ng/mL for adult females

-25 to 200 ng/mL for newborn babies

-200 to 600 ng/mL at 1 month old

-50 to 200 ng/mL between 2 and 5 months

-7 to 142ng/mL for children between 6 months and 15 years

What Low and High Results Mean

If one’s results are below the normal range, it could indicate that the patient has iron-deficiency anemia. Low results may also indicate heavy menstrual bleeding, long-term bleeding in the digestive track, or intestinal conditions that are inefficient in iron absorption.

Certain medications can also lower ferritin blood test results. These include antacids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. 

If results are above the normal range, it could indicate the presence of alcoholic liver disease, hyperthyroidism, hemochromatosis, inflammatory diseases, and certain cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, or breast carcinoma. 

What Treatment Might Include for Abnormal Ferritin Lab Results

If ferritin blood lab results are below the average level, one may undergo an iron deficiency treatment [ ]. Treatment varies based on age, health, and the cause of the deficiency but treatment may include taking an iron supplements or eating an iron-rich diet.

If ferritin blood lab results are above the average level, one may be treated for hemochromatosis. Phlebotomy removes blood to lower the iron content. It’s similar to giving blood and is simple and effective. 

Common Questions We Hear from Patients:

-Why is my ferritin blood lab result below/above average?

-Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to have a healthier level of iron in my blood?

-What treatment options do I have to normalize my iron level in my blood?

-What are the likely outcomes of the treatment options available to me?

-Are the dietary supplements I’m taking helping or hurting me?


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