Ferritin

Ferritin is a protein found inside the cells which serves as an iron storage in the body and releases iron when it is necessary for red blood cells production.

Blood sample for ferritin test
Blood sample for ferritin test

Overview

Ferritin is an intracellular protein, which is considered body’s iron storage. It is worth mentioning that iron plays an essential role in an oxygen metabolism in the body as it carries oxygen molecules to all of the body’s cells. Most of the this is found in the liver cells, bone marrow, spleen, skeletal muscles, and immune cells.  Nevertheless, small concentrations of this protein are found in the serum – these values are considered to correlate with the amount of ferritin in the cells and hence depicts the body’s capacity of iron storage. Serum this levels are helpful to diagnose iron metabolism disorders, most commonly to detect iron-deficiency anemia. However, this is also considered an acute-phase protein/reactant, meaning, that its values change in response to any inflammation, therefore, a wide range of disorders may increase serum ferritin concentrations including coronary artery disease, malignant tumors etc.

Ferritin as a substance

This is a metal-binding protein with a molecular weight of about 440 kDa. A molecule of this, which does not contain iron is referred to as apoferritin.

Reference values

May vary depending on the type of the test used.

  • In general this values in males are considered normal when range between 30-300 ng/mL;
  • In females this values of 18-160 ng/mL are considered as normal;

Ferritin testing

This values in the serum are measured in order to:

  • Diagnose any disorder associated with impaired iron metabolism and estimate iron levels in the body;
  • Control and evaluate the course of the disease and treatment effectiveness, including iron deficiency anemia and inflammatory conditions;

Increased values

Under some circumstances serum ferritin concentrations may increase.

  • Iron overload, usually related to hemochromatosis (hereditary disorder when iron absorption is increased causing excessive iron storage in the body) or hemosiderosis (abnormal accumulation of hemosiderin in the body);
  • Porphyria is an inherited disorder in which porphyrin is produced and stored in the body affecting the central nervous system and skin;
  • Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis/macrophage activation syndrome;
  • Acute and chronic liver disease, including viral hepatitis;
  • Alcoholism;
  • Malignancies including leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cell cancer;
  • Hyperthyroidism;
  • Gaucher disease;
  • End-stage renal disease;
  • Hemolysis – destruction of the red blood cells;
  • Numerous blood transfusions;
  • Iron poisoning;
  • Anemia other than iron deficiency;
  • Obesity;
  • In case of any chronic or acute inflammation due to some infections and inflammatory disorders (including rheumatoid arthritis, Still’s disease)  this as one of the acute phase proteins increases up to sevenfold and even more. 

Decreased values

Our test will help you to detect decreased this concentrations in the blood. Low ferritin levels are suggestive of iron deficiency and indicate iron deficiency anemia. Individuals who undergo hemodialysis may lose iron during the procedure ad as the result develop iron deficiency. Additionally, in celiac disease and some other gastrointestinal conditions, iron absorption is impaired and, therefore, iron deficiency may eventually develop. Furthermore, any chronic medical condition associated with blood loss (such as peptic ulcer, hemorrhoids, colorectal cancer, etc.) and even excessive menstrual bleeding may lead to iron deficiency at some point when the body’s iron storage is exhausted. Furthermore, vegetarian diet is also associated with iron deficiency due to decreased iron intake with foods and as a result cause low this concentrations in the serum. Decreased ferritin values are also observed in hypothyroidism and vitamin C deficiency.

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