The ferritin test is ordered to assess a person's iron stores in the body. The test is sometimes ordered along with an iron test and a
Total Iron Binding Capacity Profile (TIBC) to detect the presence and severity of iron deficiency or iron overload.
The ferritin test may be ordered, along with other iron tests, when a routine CBC shows that a person's hemoglobin and hematocrit are low and their red blood cells are smaller and paler than normal (microcytic and hypochromic). This condition suggests iron deficiency anemia even though other clinical symptoms may not have developed yet.
In the early stage of iron deficiency, no physical effects are usually seen. If a person is otherwise healthy, symptoms seldom appear before the hemoglobin in the blood drops below a certain level (10 g per deciliter). However, as the iron-deficiency progresses, symptoms eventually begin to develop. The most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include:
• Chronic fatigue/tiredness
• Pale skin (pallor)
As iron stores continue to be depleted, there may be shortness of breath, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), drowsiness, and irritability. If the anemia progresses in severity, chest pain, headaches, leg pains, shock, and even heart failure may occur. Children may develop learning (cognitive) disabilities. Besides the general symptoms of anemia, there are certain symptoms that are characteristics of iron deficiency. These include pica (cravings for specific substances, such as licorice, chalk, dirt, or clay), a burning sensation in the tongue or a smooth tongue, sores at the corners of the mouth, and spoon-shaped finger- and toe-nails.
A ferritin level may also be ordered when iron overload is suspected. Symptoms of iron overload will vary from person to person and tend to worsen over time. They are due to iron accumulation in the blood and tissues. Symptoms may include:
• Joint pain
• Fatigue, weakness
• Weight loss
• Lack of energy
• Abdominal pain
• Loss of sex drive
• Loss of body hair
• Heart problems such as congestive heart failure (CHF)
To confirm the presence of iron overload, other iron tests (iron, Total Iron Binding Capacity Profile -TIBC) and a genetic test for hereditary hemochromatosis may be ordered as well.
For more information on this test, visit labtestsonline.org
Please do not eat or drink anything (except water) for 12 hours prior to having your specimen collected.