A ferritin blood test checks the amount of ferritin in the blood. Ferritin is a protein in the body that binds to iron; most of the iron stored in the body is bound to ferritin. The amount of ferritin found in the blood is the same amount that is in the body.
The normal values listed here-called a reference range-are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab, and your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
- Very high ferritin levels (greater than 1,000 ng/mL) can mean a large buildup of iron in the body (hemochromatosis). One form of this condition is passed on in families (genetic hemochromatosis). Some diseases, including alcoholism, thalassemia, and some types of anemia that cause red blood cells to be destroyed, can also cause hemochromatosis. Also, if you have many blood transfusions, this can sometimes cause the body to store too much iron (acquired hemochromatosis).
- High ferritin levels may also be caused by Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, infection, inflammatory conditions (such as arthritis or lupus), or a diet that is too high in iron.
- Too much iron in body organs, such as the pancreas or heart, can affect how the organ works.
Low ferritin levels often mean an iron deficiency is present. This can be caused by long-term (chronic) blood loss from heavy menstrual bleeding, pregnancy, not enough iron in the diet, or bleeding inside the intestinal tract (from ulcers, colon polyps , colon cancer, hemorrhoids , or other conditions). In rare cases, too much iron may be lost through the skin (because of a disease such as psoriasis ) or in the urine.