Definition – What is Ferritin?

Ferritin is a protein that plays an important role in the control cycle of iron metabolism. Ferritin is the storage protein of iron. Iron is toxic for the body when it floats as a free molecule in the blood, so it must be bound to different structures.

Iron is functionally bound in haemoglobin, the red blood pigment, where it is important for oxygen transport. The remaining iron is stored in ferritin. The ferritin itself is stored mainly in the liver cells, also in the spleen and bone marrow. However, ferritin is also found in other organs, such as the heart and the brain, where it does not serve as a pure iron store.

What are normal ferritin values (standard values)?

The standard values for ferritin vary according to age and sex. For men the limits are slightly higher than for women: between 18 and 50 years the value should be between 30 and 300 ng/ml, then between 5 and 660 ng/ml. For women, the normal range is between 20 and 110 ng/ml between the ages of 16 and about 50 years, after which the ferritin value should be between 15 and 650 ng/ml. Newborns and infants have a normal range for ferritin of 90 to 630 ng/ml, with increasing age the normal range first drops to 40 to 220 ng/ml.

Reasons to determine ferritin in blood

Ferritin should be determined in the blood if existing complaints indicate a ferritin value outside the normal range. Ferritin can be both too high and too low. Both deviations initially have very unspecific symptoms in common, resulting in fatigue, exhaustion and reduced physical performance.

A ferritin deficiency is usually accompanied by iron deficiency anemia (anemia). Iron and the other substances involved in iron metabolism (haemoglobin = red blood pigment, erythrocytes = red blood cells, transferrin = iron transport protein) are also usually altered beyond their normal values. Further indications of such anemia can be pronounced paleness, increased freezing and sleeping disorders, headaches and tachycardia (palpitations).

In this case not only the iron value but also the ferritin should be determined. The iron provides information about the currently usable iron content. If the ferritin is additionally reduced, this indicates a long-standing iron deficiency, as the iron stores are also emptied.

Ferritin should also be determined if there is evidence of an iron storage disease. These are associated with very high ferritin levels and can lead to dangerous liver damage in the long term. They also promote the development of liver tumors, which is why the ferritin value should be determined if there is any suspicion.