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Ferritin Test (cont.)

What do abnormal results of a ferritin blood test mean?

  • Low levels of ferritin are seen in iron deficiency. The body uses iron to produce the hemoglobin that is critical for the red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues of the body. Iron deficiency anemia, or a decrease in red blood cells, is the result. Serious cases of anemia can produce symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, pale skin, and fast heartbeat, although mild cases may not be apparent and may first be noticed when blood tests are performed for other reasons.
  • Elevated levels of ferritin can mean that the body has too much iron. Hereditary hemochromatosis is an example of an inherited iron storage disease in which there is excessive accumulation of iron in the body (iron overload). In individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis, the daily absorption of iron from the intestines is greater than the amount needed to replace losses. Since the normal body cannot increase iron excretion, the absorbed iron accumulates in the body. The accumulation of iron in different organs (including the heart, liver, joints, and testicles in men) damages these organs over time, potentially causing heart failure, cirrhosis, diabetes, joint pain, and sexual dysfunction. Women can also have hereditary hemochromatosis, but because they lose more iron than men due to iron loss from menstruation, symptoms begin at a later age than in men.
  • Ferritin levels are also commonly elevated when there is underlying inflammation in the body. In this setting, ferritin is sometimes referred to as an acute phase reactant (similar to erythrocyte sedimentation rate or ESR, C-reactive protein or CRP).

Medically reviewed by Martin E Zipser, MD; American board of Surgery

REFERENCE:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/20/2014

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