Ferritin is an iron-carrying protein that serves as an indicator of the amount of iron in the human body. This article explains when exactly a ferritin test is ordered, and how its results are interpreted.
Your doctor might suggest you to check your serum ferritin levels if he/she needs to check the amount of iron in your blood. Ferritin test is performed to measure ferritin, a type of protein found in the cells of all living organisms, that stores iron in a safe (soluble and non-toxic) form and transports it to the areas where it is required. Thus, the test helps check the iron level in the body.
Iron is an essential element that is required to produce red blood cells. Yet, free iron in the bloodstream is toxic to cells. Production of ferritin is triggered by the presence of iron in the blood. Some protective mechanisms help keep iron in various tissue compartments. Thus, your body skillfully stores iron in a protein complex as ferritin or hemosiderin inside the cells. Those who do not have sufficient iron will have low ferritin levels, while those who exhibit an overload of iron will have high levels. Thus, the ferritin test monitors these levels in the body and helps keep them in check.
When is the Test Ordered?
A doctor may order a ferritin test for several reasons. It may be performed to diagnose a medical condition called iron deficiency anemia. The test will be ordered:
- If the level of hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying protein in your red blood cells) is low
- If the ratio of red blood cells to hematocrit (the fluid component of blood) is low
- To confirm the diagnosis of hemochromatosis (too much iron in the body), liver disease, and adult Still’s disease
- To monitor above-mentioned conditions and provide treatment accordingly
- If symptoms of iron deficiency anemia or low ferritin levels, like weakness, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and headaches are experienced
- If symptoms of iron overload like joint pain, abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of sex drive, and heart problems are noticed
What Does the Test Result Mean?
Ferritin levels are often assessed in conjunction with other iron tests, like a total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) and transferrin test. These help to collect additional information about how much iron is stored in your body. The following table will make it clear:
|Disease||Iron Level||TIBC/Transferrin||Ferritin Level|
Those who have had multiple blood transfusions are more susceptible to iron storage disorders. It has been observed that ferritin is an acute phase reactant, and so, its raised level is noticed in people with inflammation, liver disease, chronic infection, autoimmune disorders, and some types of cancer. However, ferritin test is not typically used to detect, identify, or monitor these conditions. When a ferritin-containing organ is damaged, such as the liver, spleen, or the bone marrow, elevated levels of this protein can be noticed, even though the total amount of iron in the body is normal.
This test costs about USD 75. The cost may vary depending on the labs. You can get the results of the test within a day or two. Most health insurance companies pay 80% or more of the cost. Some companies pay all the cost, while some won’t pay any portion. If you need to get this test done, you may call your insurance company and ask about its coverage.
If you are preparing only for a ferritin test, you can eat and drink normally prior to it. But, if your doctor has asked to use your blood sample for additional tests, you may need to fast for a certain amount of time before it.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is solely for informative purpose and not intended to replace the advice of medical experts.