Ferritin Test

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.


What is a ferritin test?

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.


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Why would a doctor order a ferritin test?

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.

You may also need a ferritin test if you have restless legs syndrome or liver conditions or after a complete blood count (CBC) test indicates that you have low hemoglobin or hematocrit levels.

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

Symptoms of low levels of ferritin and iron in your body (iron deficiency anemia) include:

Symptoms of high levels of ferritin and iron

Symptoms of having too much ferritin and iron (hemochromatosis, or iron overload) include:

Test Details

Who performs a ferritin test?

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.


How do I prepare for a ferritin test?

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.

What should I expect during my ferritin test?

You can expect to experience the following during a blood test, or blood draw:

  • You’ll sit in a chair, and a healthcare provider will check your arms for an easily accessible vein. This is usually in the inner part of your arm on the other side of your elbow.
  • Once they’ve located a vein, they’ll clean and disinfect the area.
  • They’ll then insert a small needle into your vein to take a blood sample. This may feel like a small pinch.
  • After they insert the needle, a small amount of blood will collect in a test tube.
  • Once they have enough blood to test, they’ll remove the needle and hold a cotton ball or gauze on the site to stop the bleeding.
  • They’ll place a bandage over the site, and you’ll be finished.

The entire procedure usually takes less than five minutes.


What should I expect after my ferritin test?

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.

What are the risks of a ferritin test?

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.

Results and Follow-Up

When should I know the results of my ferritin test?

In most cases, you should have your ferritin test results within one or two days, though it could take longer.

What type of results do you get for a ferritin test?

Blood test reports, including ferritin blood test reports, usually provide the following information:

  • The name of the blood test or what was measured in your blood.
  • The number or measurement of your blood test result.
  • The normal measurement range for that test (also known as a reference range).
  • Information that indicates if your result is normal or abnormal or high or low.

What are normal levels of ferritin?

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:

  • For people assigned female at birth: 14.7 to 205.1 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
  • For people assigned male at birth: 30.3 to 565.7 ng/mL.

If you have any questions about your results, be sure to ask your healthcare provider.

What does a high ferritin level mean?

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:

What does a low ferritin level mean?

If you have a lower-than-normal ferritin test result, it may indicate:

  • Iron deficiency anemia, meaning your body has inadequate red blood cells. This is the most likely reason for a low ferritin level result.
  • Blood loss (usually from the gastrointestinal tract).
  • That your body doesn’t absorb iron from your diet properly.

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:

Should I be concerned if my ferritin level is abnormal?

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.

When should I call my doctor?

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.

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