What is a ferritin blood test?
A ferritin blood test measures the level of ferritin in your blood. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron inside your cells. You need iron to make healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Iron is also important for healthy muscles, bone marrow, and organ function. Too little or too much iron in your system can cause serious health problems if not treated.
Other names: serum ferritin, serum ferritin level, ferritin serum
What is it used for?
A ferritin blood test is used to check your iron levels. It can help your health care provider find out if your body has the right amount of iron to stay healthy.
Why do I need a ferritin blood test?
You may need this test if you have symptoms of iron levels that are too low or too high.
Symptoms of iron levels that are too low include:
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart beat
Symptoms of iron levels that are too high can vary and tend to get worse over time. Symptoms may include:
- Joint pain
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
You may also need this test if you have restless legs syndrome, a condition that may be related to low iron levels.
What happens during a ferritin blood test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
Your health care provider may ask you to fast (not eat or drink) for 12 hours before your test. The test is usually done in the morning. If you have any questions about how to prepare for your test, talk to your health care provider.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
Lower than normal ferritin levels may mean you have iron deficiency anemia or another condition related to low iron levels. Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia, a disorder in which your body doesn’t make enough red blood cells. Iron deficiency anemia can cause heart problems, infections, and other health issues.
Higher than normal ferritin levels can mean you have too much iron in your body. Conditions that cause increased iron levels include liver disease, alcohol abuse, and hemochromatosis, a disorder that can lead to cirrhosis, heart disease, and diabetes.
If your ferritin results are not normal, it does not necessarily mean you have a medical condition needing treatment. Certain medicines can decrease or increase your ferritin levels. If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.
Is there anything else I need to know about a ferritin blood test?
Most conditions that cause too little or too much iron can be successfully treated with medicines, diet, and/or other therapies.