Reasons Ferritin Would Be Abnormally Low

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Iron supplements are usually prescribed for low ferritin levels.
Iron supplements are usually prescribed for low ferritin levels. (Image: Paul Tearle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Ferritin is a protein containing iron that is stored inside red blood cells. The amount of ferritin released into the blood reflects the overall amount of iron in the blood. When there's not enough iron in the blood to meet the body's needs, ferritin will decrease. There can be a severe depletion of the body's iron stores before any visible signs of iron deficiency occur.

Anemia

Anemia is also known as reduced hemoglobin formation or low blood iron. It's one of the major causes of low ferritin levels. Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein in the red blood cells.

There are four main types of anemia. The first is iron deficiency anemia, or hypchromic microcytic anemia. Due to the lack of iron, there's a reduced formation of hemoglobin caused by the inadequate absorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract. It's the most common form of anemia.

The second type is iron utilization anemia, or sideroblastic anemia. There is a sufficient amount of iron present in the red blood cells, but it's utilized very poorly.

The third type is iron transport deficiency anemia, or atransferrinemia. This type of anemia occurs when blood from the liver or gastrointestinal tract is not transported properly to the developing red blood cells. This results in a reduced formation of hemoglobin.

The fourth type is iron-reutilization anemia, or anemia of chronic disease, in which there's a reduced production of red blood cells. Red blood cells die every day and this type of anemia will occur if the red blood cells aren't replaced consistently.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is the underactivity of the thyroid gland leading to an underproduction of thyroid hormones. An underactive thyroid gland results in an underproduction of hydrochloric acid, which is necessary for the proper absorption of iron in the blood. Hypothyroidism also causes a lower body temperature, which will cause the body to make less red blood cells and a lower amount of hemoglobin and ferritin. Low blood iron will also cause the thyroid to become underactive.

Crash Diets

Many people try to lose weight quickly by crash dieting. This can be dangerous if the dieter is not consuming enough vitamins and minerals for proper health. When enough iron-containing foods aren't consumed, iron and ferritin levels in the blood will drop. This is also dangerous among menstruating women, since they are already losing blood. If appropriate levels of iron-containing foods are not consumed, the risk of anemia rises. The proper way to diet is by following the instructions given by a doctor or nutritionist.

Disease

Cancer that's being treated with chemotherapy is likely to cause anemia. Chemotherapy can destroy red blood cells, causing dangerously low levels of iron and ferritin. Kidney problems can also lower levels of iron and ferritin in the blood. Diseased or damaged kidneys cannot produce a hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO, which is necessary to stimulate the bone marrow into producing red blood cells. Iron supplements or blood transfusions are usually given to people with cancer and kidney problems to reverse iron-deficiency anemia.

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