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What is Ferritin

What is Ferritin

Read this article to understand what ferritin is, how its levels affect your body, and what are the implications of a ferritin deficiency or overdose.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Ferritin is a protein that functions as a binding agent for iron in the body. Iron in the body is stored in this protein, and is slowly released to fulfill the body's requirement of iron. The regulation of iron levels in the body by ferritin prevents any iron deficiency or overdose. This protein is found in almost all living organisms, including bacteria and algae. In case you have been prescribed a ferritin test, here you will learn about the purpose of the test, appropriate ferritin levels, and what a deficiency of this protein implies.
Purpose of a Ferritin Test

A ferritin test checks for iron levels in the body, its function, and its effect on your overall health. Ferritin levels are checked by means of a normal blood test.
  • Firstly, the test will measure the levels of iron in the body.
  • A test may be prescribed to check for low iron levels or anemia, if the symptoms have been noticed.
  • Ferritin tests also help check for any inflammation present in the body.
  • If symptoms of high iron levels, which in turn may be indicators of a condition known as hemochromatosis, are noticed, a ferritin test is conducted to confirm the same.
  • The test may also be prescribed to check if any medicine consumed for the above-mentioned conditions is effective in regulating iron levels in the body.
Normal Ferritin Levels
The results of a ferritin test are presented in terms of:
  • ng/mL or Nanograms per Milliliter
  • mcg/mL or Micrograms per Milliliter
The values will not be affected by the units used to represent them. Ferritin levels may fluctuate even in newborns, and the normal levels for each age/gender group have been mentioned here.

Newborns 25-200 ng/mL
1 month old Babies 200-600 ng/mL
2-5 month old Babies 50-200 ng/mL
6 month - 15 yr old Children 7-142 ng/mL
Women 18-160 ng/mL
Men 18-270 ng/mL

Even if the ferritin levels are on the lower side of the normal range, this may indicate low ferritin (or iron) levels or a ferritin deficiency. Low levels may be caused in women if they suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding, or due to a lack of iron in their diet. Moreover, conditions such as ulcers and colon cancer may cause severe internal bleeding, causing ferritin levels to plummet. A deficiency may be indicated by symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, low sex drive, and overall weakness. You may be prescribed an iron supplement and be advised to eat iron enriched foods.
On the other hand, higher ferritin levels may be caused by conditions such as alcoholism and thalassemia. In case you have undergone a blood transfusion, it may cause the iron levels in the body to increase. Liver disease, leukemia, and conditions that cause inflammation such as arthritis may also cause an increase in iron and therefore, high ferritin levels. Finally, simply consuming a diet rich in iron, that includes foods such as red meat, may be the reason for higher levels.
Do not attempt to diagnose yourself simply by means of this information. It is always better to consult a doctor if you believe you are at a risk, because the make up of every human body is different, and every case may differ from another.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.