What Ferritin Can and Can’t Tell You About Anemia
Table of Contents
Anemia is a common health issue that can be quite confusing.
To better understand anemia, doctors look at something called ferritin.
But what exactly can ferritin tell us about anemia, and are there things it can’t tell us? Don’t worry; we’re here to make it all crystal clear.
This post will help you get to know what ferritin is, why it’s important for anemia diagnosis, and what it can and can’t tell you about your health.
Let’s get started.
What is Ferritin?
Ferritin is a protein that stores iron in the body, and it’s found in all cells, but the highest levels are in the liver, blood, spleen, and bone marrow.
Ferritin levels can be measured with a blood test.
Normal ferritin levels are different for age groups. However, in general, normal ferritin levels for adult men is between 25-300 ng/mL and women is 10-120 ng/mL.
Why is Ferritin Important for Anemia?
When your iron levels are low, the body cannot produce enough red blood cells, resulting in anemia.
When you have low ferritin levels, it is usually a sign of iron deficiency, even if the person does not yet have anemia.
This is because ferritin is the body’s first iron reserve, and it is depleted before red blood cell production is affected.
Thus, ferritin is an important marker for diagnosing iron deficiency anemia.
A low ferritin level indicates that the person is at risk for developing anemia, even if their hemoglobin levels are still normal.
Other blood markers for anemia include:
- Mean corpuscular volume (MCV)
- Mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH)
MCV: Is the average size of red blood cells. A low MCV level is a sign of microcytic anemia.
MCH: Is the average amount of hemoglobin in red cells. A low MCH level may indicate hypochromic anemia.
What Ferritin Can Tell You About Anemia
Ferritin can be used for diagnosing anemia and monitoring iron treatment.
But, ferritin levels can also be high in other conditions, like inflammation and liver disease.
Therefore, it’s important to look into the patient’s clinical findings when interpreting ferritin test results.
Ferritin levels can start to decrease even before anemia develops.
This makes ferritin useful for detecting iron deficiency anemia early.
Low ferritin levels simply means low iron stores, while high ferritin levels indicate high iron stores.
What Ferritin Can’t Tell You About Anemia
Even though ferritin is useful for diagnosing and monitoring anemia, it cannot tell you everything about your health.
For example, ferritin levels cannot tell you the type of anemia you have or the cause of your anemia.
There are different types of anemia, each with its own cause. Some of the most common types of anemia include:
- Iron deficiency anemia. Caused by a lack of iron in the body.
- Sickle cell anemia. A genetic disorder that affects the shape of red blood cells.
- Thalassemia. Another genetic disorder that affects the production of hemoglobin
- Pernicious anemia. Caused by a lack of vitamin B12.
- Aplastic anemia. A rare condition that affects the production of blood cells in the bone marrow.
If your ferritin levels are low, other additional tests helps to determine the type of anemia you have.
These tests may include a complete blood count, reticulocyte count, and iron panel.
Interpreting Ferritin Test Results
How your ferritin test results are interpreted will depend on your medical history and other clinical findings.
They can help you understand your test results and determine if you need further testing or treatment.
Here is a brief overview of what high or low ferritin levels may indicate:
- Low ferritin levels. Iron deficiency, blood loss, or liver disease.
- High ferritin levels. Iron overload, inflammation, or cancer.
A ferritin test measures the amount of ferritin in your blood. The normal range for ferritin is:
- For men, 24 to 336 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL)
- For women, 11 to 307 ng/mL
But, normal ranges may be slightly different from other laboratories.
When you get your blood test results, there will be information that shows what that lab’s normal ferritin range is.
If your ferritin level is lower than normal, it may indicate that you have iron deficiency anemia.
However, a low ferritin level does not necessarily mean that you have anemia. Other conditions, such as inflammation, infection, and cancer, can also cause low ferritin levels.
If your doctor suspects that you have iron deficiency anemia, other additional tests, such as a complete blood count and a hemoglobin test may be ordered.
These tests can help to confirm a diagnosis of anemia and assess the severity of your condition.
Here is a general guide on how to interpret ferritin test results for anemia:
- Low ferritin level (below normal range): This indicate that your body’s iron stores are low and you have iron deficiency. As a result, you could be anemic. But, other conditions can also cause low ferritin levels as well.
- Normal ferritin level: This is a good sign, but it does not rule out iron deficiency anemia. Other tests may be added to confirm diagnosis.
If your ferritin levels are abnormal, discuss results with your doctor, sometimes it might be a different health condition causing low ferritin levels, so make sure you carry out further tests, as directed by your doctor.
How to Take Care of Anemia
The treatment for anemia will depend on what’s causing it.
For example, if you have iron-anemia take iron supplements.
If you have sickle cell anemia, get the best treatment plan to help you manage the symptoms.
If you have low ferritin levels, there are a few things you can do to boost your iron intake, such as eating iron-rich foods.
Good sources of iron in the diet include:
- Red meat and poultry
- Fish and shellfish
- Beans and lentils
- Fortified cereals and breads
You can also increase your iron absorption by eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries, and tomatoes.
If you are unable to get enough iron from your diet alone, consider iron supplements. Here are a few ones that we’ve carefully picked for you:
- Floradix floravital iron and herbs liquid extract formula (17 fluid ounces)
- Blood builder with whole food iron & organic beet root (90 tablets)
- Floradix iron sport liquid mineral & vitamin formula (8.5 Fl. Oz.)
- Vegan liquid iron – berry (15.22 Fl. Oz. / 90 servings)
- Comfort iron – Gentle, Non-Constipating – 25 MG (180 vegetable capsules)
Iron supplements can be taken with or without food, but it is best to take them with food to reduce the risk of stomach upset.
Once you have started treatment for low ferritin levels, keep checking your ferritin levels to monitor your progress.
Ferritin is an important marker for diagnosing iron deficiency anemia, offering early detection even before anemia develops.
However, it cannot pinpoint the specific type or cause of anemia.
Interpreting ferritin levels depends on individual factors, further testing and treatment.
Anemia care involves addressing the cause, whether through dietary changes, supplements, or symptom management.
To stay healthy and make progress, check your ferritin levels regularly.