A low ferritin level indicates a deficiency of iron in the body. This article provides some information about the causes and symptoms of low ferritin.
Usually, those with hypothyroidism may have a low ferritin level. Wondering what is ferritin? It is a protein that stores iron, and releases the mineral in a controlled fashion. The structure of this protein is like a hollow sphere. It is inside this sphere, that iron is stored in the Fe(III) oxidation state, which has to be changed to Fe(II) oxidation state, so that it can be released from the protein structure. In case of iron deficiency in the body, ferritin molecules release the stored mineral in solvated form. In short, ferritin can control the level of iron in the body, thereby preventing conditions like iron deficiency or overload.
What happens if the level of ferritin becomes low? A low ferritin level in the blood may indicate iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia that can cause various symptoms like fatigue. A ferritin blood test shows the amount of ferritin in the body. The level of ferritin in the blood can be low, even if the hemoglobin and iron levels are normal. Such situations indicate initial stages of iron deficiency, in which the body lacks stored iron.
Normal Ferritin Range
- Males – 12 to 300 ng/mL
- Females – 12 to 150 ng/mL
- Kids (6 months to 15 years) – 7 to 140 ng/mL
- Infants (1 to 5 months) – 50 to 200 ng/mL
- Neonates – 25 to 200 ng/mL
ng/mL – nanograms per milliliter
What Causes Low Ferritin Level?
A depletion in the level of ferritin in the blood can be caused by various factors. The major causes include low intake of iron-rich foods, long-term blood loss, as seen in women with heavy menstrual bleeding, etc. Those with medical conditions like hemorrhoids, colon polyps, and ulcers, may develop bleeding in the intestinal tract, thereby causing long-term blood loss. Another reason for low ferritin is malabsorption of iron consumed. This condition occurs in people with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and other gastrointestinal disorders. Poor absorption of iron causes a drop in the level of iron in the body. Such people may also show a low ferritin level. In some cases, premature breakdown of red blood cells due to intravascular hemolysis also leads to symptoms of low ferritin level.
According to the Merck Manual, a serum ferritin level that is less than 12 ng/mL, is specific for iron deficiency. The reference range for serum ferritin may vary with laboratories. A person with a low ferritin level may develop symptoms, as the condition causes anemia. The symptoms can range from mild to moderate, and get severe as the level becomes too low.
- Mild aches and pains
- Fatigue, weakness
- Loss of stamina
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness and palor
- Increase in pulse rate and palpitations
- Irritability, confusion
- Loss of libido
- Tingling and numbness in fingers and toes
- Restless leg syndrome
- Abnormal craving to eat ice or inedible items
- Cognitive problems and excessive bruising
- Dysphagia, inflamed tongue, concave nails
A low ferritin level may indicate conditions like hypothyroidism, vitamin C deficiency, or celiac disease.
If the blood test result confirms low ferritin levels in your body, the doctor will recommend a change in diet. Consumption of iron-rich foods such as eggs, lean meat, and leafy vegetables like spinach, has to be increased. Apart from that, iron supplements and tonics may also be prescribed. In case of an underlying medical condition, it has to be treated properly. Your doctor is the best person to guide you in this matter.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.