The ferritin blood test measures the level of ferritin in the blood.
Ferritin is a protein found inside cells that stores iron so your body can use it later. A ferritin test indirectly measures the amount of iron in your blood.
How the Test is Performed
A blood sample is needed.
How to Prepare for the Test
Your doctor may tell you not to eat anything (fast) for 12 hours before the test. You may also be told to have the test done in the morning.
How the Test will Feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain. Others feel only a prick or stinging. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
Why the Test is Performed
The amount of ferritin in the blood (serum ferritin level) is directly related to the amount of iron stored in your body. Iron is important for red blood cell production. Your doctor may order this test if you have signs or symptoms of anemia due to low iron. Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues.
Normal value range is:
- Male: 12-300 ng/mL (nanograms per millilter)
- Female: 12-150 ng/mL
The lower the ferritin level, even within the "normal" range, the more likely it is that the patient does not have enough iron.
The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Any inflammatory disorder can raise the ferritin level.
A higher-than-normal ferritin level may be due to:
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Frequent transfusion of packed red blood cells
- Too much iron in the body (hemochromatosis)
A lower-than-normal level may be due to:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Intestinal conditions that cause poor absorption of iron
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Long-term digestive tract bleeding
Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling light-headed
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Serum ferritin level
Brittenham GM. Disorders of iron homeostasis: iron deficiency and overload. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Silberstein LE, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 34.
Elghetany MT, Banki K. Erythrocytic disorders. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 32.
Update Date 2/24/2014
Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.