Ferritin Test

Ferritin blood test

Last Updated January 3rd, 2021

What is Ferritin?

Ferritin is a protein that is present in the blood cells of our body and stores iron. It can be described as a reservoir for iron and releases it whenever our body needs it. Ferritin is found in abundance in the liver cells or hepatocytes.

Whenever our body needs more red blood cells, ferritin is released which then combines with another protein called the transferrin. Transferrin carries ferritin to replenish the iron to form new red blood cells. The body needs to have a normal store of ferritin that will be used by the body from time to time.

Does Ferritin have an alternative name?

Yes, ferritin is also known as serum ferritin.

What is a Ferritin test?

A ferritin test is a blood test that helps your doctor to measure the amount of the protein ferritin present in your blood. The test helps your doctor to understand whether your ferritin levels are low or normal. If the levels are low, it indicates iron deficiency or other diseases. Higher than the normal levels can also indicate some very serious medical conditions such as:

Rheumatoid arthritis.
– Hyperthyroidism
– Cancer
Liver diseases.

When do I need a Ferritin test?

Your doctor may ask you to do a ferritin test if he thinks your ferritin levels are too low or even higher than the normal level. Symptoms for low ferritin levels are:

– Iron deficiency or anemia.
– Pale skin.
– Weakness in the body.
– Shortness of breath.
– Increased palpitation.
– Pain in the legs.
– Restless leg syndrome.
– Discomfort or ringing sensation in ears.
– Heavy menstrual flow.

Symptoms for high ferritin levels include:

– Palpitations
– Chest pain.
– Skin darkening.
– Pain in the joints.
– Stomach pain.
 
Certain other symptoms include:

– Brittle nails.
– Loss of hair.
– Blood in the stool.
– Internal bleeding or digestive tract bleeding.

Why is the Ferritin test important?

The ferritin test is done to diagnose if you have any iron-related medical condition and also to check your overall physical health. The test can be done to detect some of the medical conditions such as:

– To diagnose iron-deficiency anemia or to detect if you have low levels of hemoglobin.
– To measure the ratio of red blood cells and hematocrit, the fluid component in the blood.
Restless leg syndrome.
– Adult Still’s disease.
– Liver disease.
– Rheumatoid arthritis.
– Alcohol abuse.
Hodgkin lymphoma.
– Leukemia of the bone marrow.

How do I prepare myself for the Ferritin test?

The ferritin test is a simple blood test and does not require any specific preparation. However, if you are to undergo any other blood test along with the ferritin test, you may be required to fast a few hours before the test.

– Inform your doctor if you are taking any iron supplements or are under any other specific medication, vitamin supplements, or herbs.

– Your doctor may ask you to stop taking iron pills 24 hours before the test as it may affect the test results.

– If you have undergone any recent surgery or blood transfusion, inform your doctor about the same.

Do I need to fast before a Ferritin test?

No, you do not need to fast before a ferritin test.

How is the Ferritin test performed?

The ferritin test is a simple blood test. Your technician or nurse will collect your blood sample preferably early in the morning. According to AACC or the American Association of Clinical Chemistry, it has been found that the early morning test results give more accurate readings.

– Your technician will draw a blood sample from the vein of your arm or the crease of your elbow.

– A small patch of your skin will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.

– The technician will then tie an elastic band around the arm to make the veins swell up and be more visible.

– A needle attached to a vial or syringe is inserted into the site and blood is withdrawn.

– The blood sample is then stored in the vial or syringe and then sent to the laboratory for evaluation.

– A clean cotton swab is then pressed on the puncture site to stop bleeding.

What will I feel during the Ferritin test?

You may experience a mild stinging sensation while the blood is withdrawn. Some people may complain about dizziness or nausea. It generally goes away after a few minutes.

How long does a Ferritin test take?

The test will be completed within a few minutes and you can resume your normal activities for the day.

When will I get my test result?

You will get your test results within a day or two.

What are the risks of this test?

The ferritin test is a regular blood test and does not have any side effects or risks. However, some people may experience mild bruising in and around the puncture site. In case there is a blood clot or hematoma under the skin, it may cause slight discomfort. You can apply some ice initially that will soothe up the swelling and then some warm compress to dissolve the clot. In case there is redness or signs of infection or even swelling that persists, consult a doctor immediately.

What is the average cost of a Ferritin test in India?

The test can cost anywhere between Rs 400 to Rs 1200 depending on the city, laboratory, and quality of the test.

What is the normal range of Ferritin?

Type Male Female
Ferritin Range (nanograms per milliliter or ng/mL)20-500 ng/mL20-200 ng/mL
The chart above shows the normal range of ferritin in a healthy body. The results may slightly vary depending upon the laboratory conducting the test and many other factors like a person’s medical condition or age. You should consult your doctor immediately after you receive your result. Your doctor will advise the next course of action and prescribe the medical treatment based on your test report.

What do high Ferritin levels indicate?

If your ferritin levels are high it indicates that your body is absorbing too much of iron. The condition is known as hemochromatosis. It can also indicate liver disease. Ferritin is stored in the liver cells. If the liver is damaged, ferritin leaks out and can result in higher ferritin levels in the blood. A high ferritin level can indicate various medical conditions:

– Hereditary hemochromatosis.
– Adult Still’s disease.
– Rheumatoid arthritis.
– Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
– Chronic hepatitis C.
– Restless leg syndrome.
Porphyria, a disease caused by an enzyme deficiency.
– Heart failure.
– Cirrhosis of the liver.

High levels of ferritin can also be caused by multiple blood transfusions, alcohol abuse, and obesity. For elevated ferritin levels, your doctor may prescribe other blood iron tests or a TIBC (total iron-binding capacity) test that measures the amount of transferrin in your blood.

High ferritin levels require continuous treatment, medication and blood tests to maintain a normal level. Sometimes, your doctor may suggest phlebotomy, a process through which the excess iron is removed by withdrawing blood from the body.

What does low Ferritin level indicate?

If you have low levels of ferritin, it indicates you have iron deficiency or anemia. Low levels of ferritin can also indicate:

– Excessive menstrual bleeding.
Internal bleeding especially around the stomach region.
Peptic ulcers.

If you have low ferritin levels, your doctor will put you on oral iron supplements and an iron-rich diet to replenish the iron in your body.

What other tests can prescribed following the Ferritin test?

Depending on your test results, your doctor may order some other blood tests to measure the amount of iron in your bloodstream.

– TIBC test to measure the amount of transferrin in your blood.
– CBC or complete blood count test.
– Serum iron level test.
– Test to determine the level of hemoglobin and hematocrit in the blood.
– HFE gene test for the prognosis of hemochromatosis.
– Zinc protoporphyrin for detecting lead poisoning and iron deficiency.

How is the Ferritin test helpful during pregnancy?

Iron deficiency is one of the major causes of anemia in pregnant women. A little bit of iron deficiency is quite common during pregnancy as a large part of the maternal iron is being used by the body for the growth and development of the fetus and the placenta.

But in some cases, women who are already suffering from chronic anemia may lead to the premature birth of the baby, perinatal mortality, miscarriage or even death of the mother. To avoid such serious consequences, doctors recommend a serum ferritin test during early pregnancy and in the third trimester to measure the amount of iron in the blood.

Can the Ferritin test be done in children?

Yes, doctors can consider having a ferritin test in children to evaluate the iron store in their bodies. If your doctor suspects that your child is exhibiting symptoms of iron deficiency or iron overload, he will order a ferritin test.

For infants and children, blood can be collected by the “heel-stick” process by puncturing a vein in the heel. The procedure is completely safe and your child will only experience slight discomfort.

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