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Ferritin Test

Last updated Oct. 26, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Ferritin is the main storage form of iron. Iron is a trace element, required in small quantities by the body. Iron-containing enzymes and proteins, participate in many cellular reactions, as well as in oxygen transport.


What are the other Names for this Test? (Equivalent Terms)

  • Serum Ferritin Test

What is Ferritin Test? (Background Information)

  • Ferritin is the main storage form of iron. Iron is a trace element, required in small quantities by the body. Iron-containing enzymes and proteins, participate in many cellular reactions, as well as in oxygen transport
  • Most of the iron that is absorbed by the body (almost 70%) is used to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein, present in red blood cells
  • A large fraction of the remaining iron is incorporated into a protein, called Ferritin, and is stored mainly in the liver. It is also stored in the bone marrow, spleen, and muscles
  • A small quantity of Ferritin is present in blood and is a good indicator of the amount of iron stored in the body
  • When iron is absorbed, in excess of the body’s needs, Ferritin levels increase; while during any shortage, the Ferritin levels fall. Thus, measurement of blood Ferritin levels help in assessing the total iron stores of the body

What are the Clinical Indications for performing the Ferritin Test?

Indications for performing a Ferritin Test include:

Evaluating an individual for possible iron-deficiency anemia; the signs and symptoms of which may include:

  • Chronic fatigue, weakness
  • Pale skin, hands, eyes
  • Dizziness, headaches
  • Craving for substances, called pica
  • Spoon-shaped nails
  • Smooth tongue
  • As the disease progresses, an individual may report racing of the heart, shortness of breath, ringing sound in the ears; in most severe cases, a heart failure may occur

In such an individual, a routine hemogram/complete blood count would show low levels of hemoglobin (red pigment in the red blood cells) and hematocrit (the fraction of blood, made-up by RBCs). The red blood cells would appear smaller and paler, when examined under a microscope.

Evaluating an individual for possible overload of iron; the signs and symptoms of which may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of weight
  • Loss of hair
  • Problems of the heart

These symptoms are caused by an accumulation of iron in the tissues and the resultant damage it causes.

How is the Specimen Collected for Ferritin Test?

Sample required: Blood

Process: Blood sample is drawn through a needle inserted into the vein (arm).

Preparation required: It is advised to fast for 12 hours, before getting tested. However, one may consume water during this period.

What is the Significance of the Ferritin Test Result?

The normal blood levels of Ferritin, called the reference range for Ferritin, may vary slightly from lab to lab. Hence, most lab reports come with a reference range, which is used in that particular centre. One such reference range, in wide use, is per the following:

  • Males: 12-300 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter)
  • Females: 12-150 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter)

Low levels of Ferritin are found in individuals with iron deficiency.

High levels of Ferritin are found in individuals with iron overload, which may occur following multiple blood transfusions, or as a result of a disease called hereditary hemochromatosis.

The laboratory test results are NOT to be interpreted as results of a "stand-alone" test. The test results have to be interpreted after correlating with suitable clinical findings and additional supplemental tests/information. Your healthcare providers will explain the meaning of your tests results, based on the overall clinical scenario.

Additional and Relevant Useful Information:

Ferritin levels can be increased by certain inflammatory conditions in the body. They may also be increased due to:

  • Liver disease
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Chronic infections

Certain medications that you may be currently taking may influence the outcome of the test. Hence, it is important to inform your healthcare provider, the complete list of medications (including any herbal supplements) you are currently taking. This will help the healthcare provider interpret your test results more accurately and avoid unnecessary chances of a misdiagnosis.

References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Feb. 2, 2014
Last updated: Oct. 26, 2018