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What Do Elevated Ferritin Levels Mean?

Updated on June 4, 2013

Ferritin is a protein in the body in which iron is stored. It is found in the bone marrow, red blood cells, liver and spleen.

Sometimes the doctor will order a ferritin test. This involves taking a simple blood sample and checking it under a microscope.

If the levels are elevated, it is indicative of too much iron being stored elsewhere in the body.

If you have been told you have elevated ferritin levels, you are likely looking online for possible causes.

There are several reasons why your ferritin levels may be high, and here are just some of them, to give you an idea, but the best person to discuss this with is your doctor or health visitor.

Ferritin can be raised in a lot of innocent ways, so you have no cause to worry. It is what they call an acute phase reactant, and so is present as side-effect if you like, of other things going on in the body.

Like those who:

  • Have had a lot of blood transfusions
  • have an infection - even the common cold can cause raised ferritin levels
  • have an inflammation somewhere in the body
  • have some types of cancer
  • have liver disease

Hemochromatosis

This is a condition where too much iron is absorbed, usually from the diet, into the body. It can affect all the major organs, eventually leading to death, and so an early diagnosis and successful treatment is paramount.

It can be successfully treated by withdrawing blood, by administering certain medications, and by a slight change of diet. Caught early, you can continue to lead a normal and full life.

Read more about hemochromatosis.

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is the name of a type of anemia caused by the red blood cells self-destructing prematurely.

Normal red blood cells live for 4 months and are automatically replaced as new cells are made in the bone marrow, but in hemolytic anemia the new blood cells are not produced quickly enough to replace the ones that have been lost.

There are two types of hemolytic anemia:

  • Hereditary - you were born with it. The genes run in your family. You may have either sickle cell anemia or thalassemia, which are the two most common, but there are other conditions that are rarer that come under the heading of hemoltyic anemia.
  • Acquired - something caused it. The main suspects would be an incompatible blood transfusion, some medications including penicillin, and auto-immune disorders (where the body turns on itself for no apparent reason).

In both types the main symptoms are:

Sideroblastic Anemia

This is a condition where the red blood cells no longer absorb the iron we eat in foods.

As a result, the iron we intake does not assist the red blood cells to carry oxygen, meaning our bodies become very tired, very easily.

The iron meanwhile accumulates in the organs where it damages the tissues and leads to organ failure.

It can be genetic, passed out down through the family, or it can be caused by:

Iron Poisoning

Iron poisoning can occur when someone overdoses on iron pills or medications, and can be fatal.

Be very careful what dose you take and never take more than the recommended maximum dosage.

Adult Still Disease

Ferritin levels are elevated in adult still disease, but it is really just a side-effect as the other symptoms are acute and will alert you to something being wrong.

it starts off with a sore throat, but after several days or even weeks, you will have developed a fever, rash, joint pains, weight loss and lethargy.

Ferritin levels are extremely high with this disease which is an inflammatory condition.

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Liver cirrhosis is the term given when scar tissue forms on the liver after cells die.

Many different liver diseases and conditions can be responsible for causing cirrhosis, not just an excess alcohol intake.

Cirrhosis is incurable and eventually fatal.

Ferritin levels in the body

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