Ferritin is a protein contained inside cells that stores iron for later use by an individual's body. The amount of the protein in your body is directly correlated to the amount of iron that can be stored. Ferritin is stored in the liver, spleen, skeletal muscles, bone marrow and in the blood.
To test levels of ferritin, a simple blood test can be performed. If levels of ferritin are low, it is usually indicative of an iron deficiency, which may need treatment.
The ideal level of ferritin proteins present in your body is a blood test result of 70 milligrams per deciliter (which is a unit of concentration by weight and by molecular count) and 90 milligrams per deciliter. However, the normal range for adult males is between 30 and 300 milligrams per deciliter. Many individuals with ferritin test results under 60 milligrams per deciliter may be prescribed treatment for iron deficiency.
Low amounts of ferritin do not always have symptoms, but the condition can be a precursor to an individual developing anemia. Some initial symptoms associated with low ferritin include minor aches, easy fatigue, weakness, increased pulse or palpitations, loss of energy, loss of libido, increased irritability and confusion. Other symptoms may include pica (eating of non-food items), pagophagia (compulsive eating of ice), minor abdominal pains, heartburn and numbness or tingling in your extremities. Women may also experience long or unusually heavy periods.
Many patients also display visual signs of low ferritin levels and iron deficiencies, which include paleness of the skin or eyes, brittleness or weakness of nails, intestinal problems, cognitive problems and easy or excessive bruising.
Since iron deficiencies may also alter thyroid metabolism, and low ferritin and iron deficiencies are often linked to hypothyroid disease.
To prevent low ferritin levels in your body, be aware of the risk factors associated with the condition, including a diet low in iron, unusual blood loss, family history of iron deficiencies and the symptoms mentioned.
If you think you may have conditions such as low ferritin, iron deficiency, anemia or hypothyroid disease, you should consult with your doctor before beginning treatment. Treatment for low ferritin will often include supplementing your current diet with iron. This can be done through iron-rich food products such as lean meats, eggs, green and leafy vegetables, and whole grain bread products. The condition can also be aided by iron supplement medications available over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. Be sure to read the instructions and warnings on such supplements for your treatment.
According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended course of therapy is a three-month treatment. However, some conditions and individuals may need from six to twelve months for treatment. Consult your doctor to identify the best course of treatment.