What is ferritin?

Ferritin is an iron-protein complex that contains up to 23% iron, it is formed by the union of ferric ions with apoferritin and is found primarily in the liver, intestinal mucosa, spleen, bone marrow, muscles, reticulocytes, and it regulates iron storage and transport from the intestinal lumen to the plasma. The iron ions are in a structure similar to that of a cavity, and are composed of 24 sub-units. Ferritin plays a vital role in the storage of iron in our body.

Ferritin has the shape of a hollow sphere, which permits the entry of a variable amount of iron for storage, such as that of ferric hydroxide phosphate complexes.

Why measure ferritin levels?

Measuring the level of ferritin present in the body indicates iron reserves that the body has to disposition. If a ferritin test reveals that your blood ferritin level is lower than that of normal, it may indicate that your body’s storage of iron are low and you have an iron deficiency. However on the other hand if the ferritin blood test shows that you have higher than normal levels, it could indicate that you have a condition that causes your body to store too much iron. This could also point to possible liver damage, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and other inflammatory conditions. Some types of cancer may sometimes cause blood ferritin levels to be higher than normal.

This test serves to help diagnose medical conditions. If other blood tests have shown that the level of oxygen carrying protein in your hemoglobin (red blood cells) is low, or if the proportion of red blood cells to the fluid component (hematocrit) in your blood is low. These help evaluate a patient, and may indicate that they might have an iron deficiency anemia, and hence help confirm the diagnosis. Ferritin blood levels are also measured in patients that have restless legs syndrome, or help diagnose conditions such as that of hemochromatosis, Still’s disease, liver disease and other diseases. The ferritin blood test also allows us to provide other additional information about the quantity of iron found in the patients’ blood. This test also helps us have proper guided treatment and monitor medical conditions, such as disorders that result in too much iron being present in a patient’s body, such as that of hemosiderosis or hemochromatosis.

Standard of preparation

Sampling is usually done in the morning in the hospital. There are no special preparations needed for this test. The doctor will advise and recommend if you need to be fasting prior to the blood examination. You should inform your doctor of any medication you are taking prior to the exam, as some medical treatments may interfere with the blood results.

Is the examination painful or dangerous?

The examination is neither painful nor dangerous. The patient may feel a tingling sensation with the entrance of the needle in the arm when blood is being extracted for examination.

How is the exam performed?

The exam consists of a simple blood sample test.