A ferritin test measures the amount of ferritin in your blood — a protein that stores iron inside your cells. This test helps healthcare providers determine if you have a healthy amount of iron in your body.
A ferritin test is a blood test that measures the level of ferritin — a protein that stores iron inside your cells.
Your body needs iron to make healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Iron is also important for healthy muscles, bone marrow and organ function. Your body stores extra iron in ferritin for later use, which is usually concentrated in your liver and the cells of your immune system.
When your body uses iron, cells release a small amount of ferritin into your bloodstream. Because of this, your ferritin level reflects the amount of iron stored in your body.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
The purpose of a ferritin test is to determine whether your body has a healthy amount of iron. Healthcare providers typically order ferritin tests for screening and diagnostic purposes.
For diagnostic purposes, your provider might order a ferritin test if they suspect that your iron levels are abnormal. Too little or too much iron in your blood can lead to health problems, which cause symptoms.
Providers use ferritin tests as a screening tool along with other blood tests to look for low levels of iron before symptoms develop. This is typically only for people who are at high risk for iron deficiency, including:
Symptoms of low levels of ferritin and iron in your body (iron deficiency anemia) include:
Symptoms of having too much ferritin and iron (hemochromatosis, or iron overload) include:
A healthcare provider called a phlebotomist usually performs blood draws, but any healthcare provider who’s trained in drawing blood can perform this task. The samples are sent to a lab where a medical laboratory scientist prepares the samples and performs the test on machines known as analyzers.
Your healthcare provider may ask you to fast (not eat or drink anything except for water) for 12 hours before your test. If you have any questions about how to prepare, talk to your provider.
You can expect to experience the following during a blood test, or blood draw:
The entire procedure usually takes less than five minutes.
After a healthcare provider has collected your blood sample, they’ll send it to a laboratory for testing. Once the test results are back, your healthcare provider will share the results with you.
Blood tests are a very common and essential part of medical testing and screening. There’s very little risk to having blood tests. You may have slight tenderness or a bruise at the site of the blood draw, but this usually resolves quickly.
In most cases, you should have your ferritin test results within one or two days, though it could take longer.
Blood test reports, including ferritin blood test reports, usually provide the following information:
Laboratories may have different reference ranges for normal ferritin levels. When you get your blood test results back, there will be information that indicates what that lab’s normal ferritin range is.
In general, the normal ferritin level ranges are:
If you have any questions about your results, be sure to ask your healthcare provider.
Ferritin test results may be high due to hemochromatosis (iron overload), a condition in which your body stores too much iron.
However, elevated ferritin levels can also be due to other medical conditions. Ferritin is an important marker of inflammation in your body, so ferritin levels can be higher than normal any time you have a condition that causes inflammation, such as an underlying infection.
Other conditions or situations that cause elevated ferritin include:
If you have a lower-than-normal ferritin test result, it may indicate:
If you have a low ferritin level test result, your provider will likely order additional blood tests and compare the results to determine the extent of iron deficiency anemia. These tests include:
If your ferritin test results reveal that you have high or low levels of ferritin, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a medical condition. Other factors, such as diet and inflammatory health conditions, can affect your ferritin levels. There could’ve also been an error in the collection, transport or processing of the test.
If you have an abnormal result, your healthcare provider will discuss your results with you. They may order additional tests to determine the cause of your abnormal ferritin levels.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low or high iron and ferritin levels, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Seeing an abnormal test result can be stressful. Know that having a high or low level of ferritin doesn’t necessarily mean you have a medical condition and need treatment. Approximately 1 in 20 healthy people will have results outside of the normal range. Your healthcare provider will let you know if you need to undergo further tests to determine the cause of the abnormal level. The good news is that most conditions that cause too little or too much iron in your body can be successfully treated with medications, dietary changes and/or other therapies. Don’t be afraid to ask your provider questions. They’re there to help you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.