All cells in the body need iron (S-Fe). The majority, approximately 70%, of the iron is needed for producing the haemoglobin in red blood cells. In the bloodstream, iron is transported bound to a transport protein called transferrin, from which it passes to mitochondria, which supply cellular energy. Excess iron, on the other hand, is stored as ferritin (S-Ferrit).
Iron deficiency is quite common, especially among women. Their iron intake easily remains below recommendations, and women of fertile age also lose iron with menstrual periods, for example.
When should ferritin be measured?
Lack of strength, paleness, headache, humming in the ears, elevated heart rate and the tendency to get out of breath and grow fatigued may be signs of iron deficiency or anaemia. Tongue pain, pain when swallowing and brittle fingernails may also indicate an iron deficiency. Gastric or intestinal bleeding may result in dark or bloody stool.
Mild anaemia and iron deficiency is sometimes difficult to notice on one’s own. If the condition develops slowly, the body is able to adapt to it. Occasionally, iron deficiency is diagnosed by chance in blood tests.
Iron deficiency is considerably more common in women. In men, iron deficiency is quite rare.
The body can also accumulate excessive amounts of iron. This can be caused by a hereditary build-up of iron known as haemochromatosis. Its symptoms include strong fatigue, weakened libido, impaired hair growth, diabetes, joint symptoms and darkening of the skin.
What does a ferritin test measure?
The test is used to examine the body’s iron reserves. Anaemia, however, is diagnosed with a haemoglobin test instead of a ferritin test. Testing ferritin helps detect early stages of anaemia. This can help prevent the development of anaemia.
The most important iron reserves of the body are located in the liver, but there are also reserves in the spleen, bone marrow and muscles. Ferritin can be measured from a blood test as there are always low amounts of ferritin in our bloodstream.
How to interpret the ferritin test result?
Normally, the result is:
Women ≥ 18 y: 13-150 µg/l
Girls 14-17 y: 12-152 µg/l
Men ≥ 18 y: 30-400 µg/l
Boys 16-17 y: 25-386 µg/l
Generally speaking, iron deficiency is diagnosed if the ferritin levels fall below 30 µg/l. Therefore, iron deficiency may exist even if the results of the ferritin test fall within the reference values. A value exceeding 100 µg/l usually excludes the possibility of iron deficiency anaemia.
So far, only one reason has been discovered for decreasing levels of ferritin: iron deficiency and depleted iron reserves. Ferritin levels usually fluctuate from one day to the next and according to the menstrual cycle. During pregnancy, the body produces more red cells, which consumes some of the iron reserves and may cause the ferritin levels to drop. Contraceptive pills, on the other hand, may increase the ferritin levels by improving the absorption of iron from the intestine.
Strong inflammation or tissue damage often considerably increases the levels of various proteins in the blood. These responsive proteins are called acute-phase proteins. Ferritin is one of the acute-phase proteins, which is why the lower limit of ferritin is higher, up to 70 µg/l, in connection with inflammation, liver diseases and cancer.
The reference values of this examination have changed 6.10.2022. You will find your own result's reference values from My LOUNA in touch with the graph. Read more about defining reference values.
Please contact your physician or other healthcare professional if you suspect an illness or need help interpreting the results.
What can cause elevated ferritin values?
- Excess weight resulting in fatty liver disease
- Regular use of alcohol resulting in liver damage
- Acute or chronic inflammation
- Some rare forms of anaemia
- Liver damage, for example as a result of hepatitis or obstructed bile ducts
- Recurring blood transfusions
- Hereditary build-up of iron, also known as haemochromatosis
What can cause decreased ferritin values?
The most common reason for a low ferritin value is iron deficiency anaemia that may be the result of:
- Continuous, slow bleeding in the intestine due to a gastrointestinal or duodenal ulcer or haemorrhoids, for example
- Heavy menstruation
- Insufficient iron in diet
- Iron malabsorption due to coeliac disease, for example
- Sudden bleeding, causing the ferritin levels to drop within 1–2 weeks
The most typical additional S-Ferrit tests:
- Complete blood count (CBC), shows the number of red and white blood cells, number of platelets and cell type (3696 B-TVK)
- Transferrin receptor, soluble, carries iron into cells and tissues (1949 S -TfR)
- All cells in the body need iron (2566 fS-Fe)
SYNLAB test list: Ferritin (1395 S-Ferrit) https://www.yml.fi/tuotekuvaus_show.php?tuotenro=126
Terveyskirjasto health library: Ferritin (P-Ferrit)
EBM Guidelines: Iron deficiency anaemia
Fasting is not required
This examination does not require fasting