Ferritin is an iron-containing storage protein and the main form of iron stored in your body. The amount of ferritin in your blood can give your doctor clues about the amount of iron your body has in reserve. If you have low ferritin levels, it may indicate that you have an iron deficiency, or that you're on your way to developing one. Low ferritin levels can also show up as a result of certain medicationslike antacids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs.

If you suspect that you have low ferritin levels, your doctor can confirm this or rule it out through a simple blood test. If that blood test confirms that your ferritin is low, he or she will dig deeper to find the underlying cause of the deficiency. Low ferritin levels are typically caused by a low level of iron in the blood. If you have low ferritin, it doesn't mean that you're clinically deficient in iron, but you could be on your way to developing a true iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia.

Other low ferritin causes include the use of certain medications, like antacids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs. Low ferritin levels are associated with low levels of iron, but in the early stages, you might not have iron deficiency yet. When you're not taking in enough iron through your diet or you're losing iron from heavy menstrual bleeding or other blood loss like complications from ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, your body turns somewhere else to get what it needs.

In the absence of dietary ironyour body pulls ferritin out of your tissues and blood and uses the iron contained within it to replenish its iron stores. If you quickly correct this by taking in adequate amounts of iron, either through food or supplements, the process likely won't lead to a true iron deficiency. However, if it's not corrected, your body will continue to use the iron in ferritin until all of the stored ferritin, and the iron it contains, is depleted. At first, this might not have a noticeable effect on you, but over time, it results in a reduced blood cell count, or what is medically referred to as iron-deficiency anemia.

The first symptoms that show up with low ferritin levels typically include fatigue and weakness. If your levels continue to drop, taking your red blood cell count with them, you may experience :. If you have any of these signs and symptomsor you have suspected blood loss, your doctor may recommend a blood test. Iron levels and total iron-binding capacity, or TIBC, tests are usually ordered in conjunction with a ferritin test, although a report published in Clinical Case Reports in April describes the ferritin test as the most sensitive and specific test for iron deficiency.

Together, these tests can detect the amount of ferritin and iron in the blood as well as the severity of the condition. When it comes to ferritin, normal range depends on your age and sex and other factors like your health history. For adult females, the numbers are different based on your age. If your results show ferritin levels that are lower than normal, your doctor may recommend a combination of treatments, like iron supplementation and a specialized high-iron diet.Iron is very important in maintaining many body functions, including the production of hemoglobin, the molecule in your blood that carries oxygen.

Iron is also necessary to maintain healthy cells, skin, hair, and nails. Iron from the food you eat is absorbed into the body by the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract; the body only absorbs a small fraction of the iron you ingest. The iron is then released into the blood stream, where a protein called transferrin attaches to it and delivers the iron to the liver.

Iron is stored in the liver as ferritin and released as needed to make new red blood cells in the bone marrow. When red blood cells are no longer able to function after about days in circulationthey are re-absorbed by the spleen.

Iron from these old cells can also be recycled by the body. Iron deficiency is very common, especially among women and in people who have a diet that is low in iron. The following groups of people are at highest risk for iron-deficiency anemia:. Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia are related to decreased oxygen delivery to the entire body and may include:. In an individual who is anemic from iron deficiency, these tests usually show the following results:.

The peripheral smear or blood slide may show small, oval-shaped cells with pale centers. Your doctor will decide if other tests are necessary. Iron deficiency is common in menstruating and pregnant women, children, and others with a diet history of excessive cow's milk or low iron-containing foods. By talking with your doctor about your diet and medical history, your doctor may gain enough information to determine whether additional testing is needed.

In patients such as men, postmenopausal women, or younger women with severe anemia, the doctor may recommend additional testing. These tests may include the following:. Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose the cause of iron deficiency, or your doctor may be concerned that there is a problem other than iron deficiency causing the anemia.

These may include inherited blood disorders called thalassemiasin which red blood cells also appear small and pale, hemoglobinopathies such as sickle cell disease but not sickle cell trait aloneor other blood disorders. People with chronic infections or conditions such as kidney failure, autoimmune diseases, and inflammatory disorders may also have small red blood cells.

When the cause of the anemia is not clear, your doctor may refer you to a hematologist, a medical specialist in blood disorders,for consultation and further evaluation. Even if the cause of the iron deficiency can be identified and treated, it is still usually necessary to take medicinal iron more iron than a multivitamin can provide until the deficiency is corrected and the body's iron stores are replenished. In some cases, if the cause cannot be identified or corrected, the patient may have to receive supplemental iron on an ongoing basis.Ferritin is the major storage form of iron in the liver, spleen, muscle and bone.

Only small amounts of ferritin circulate through the blood. Transferrin is a protein in the body that carries iron in the blood and functions to carry iron throughout the body to be stored as ferritin. Iron provides support for the brain, immune system and healthy tissue functioning. Iron is primarily responsible for transporting oxygen through the blood, which delivers oxygen to tissues.

Many enzymes -- proteins that help initiate chemical reactions in the cells -- also require iron to perform their duties. Healthy immune systems require adequate iron, and when the body is deficient in iron, it becomes more susceptible to illness.

Since iron also helps produce the protective covering of nerve cells and aids in the production of neurotransmitters, it also plays a key role in proper brain function. One of the most common reasons for low ferritin levels is iron-deficiency anemia. This condition can result from blood caused by heavy menstrual bleeding, gastrointestinal conditions that may impair iron absorption or gastrointestinal bleeding over time. If iron levels in the body are low, ferritin stores may be depleted causing low serum ferritin levels as the body removes iron from these stores to use for functions such as oxygen transport to tissues.

Signs and symptoms of low ferritin levels include lethargy, weakness, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, hair loss, the desire to eat non-food items, paleness, unexplained bruising and intestinal issues. If you feel like you are suffering from any of these signs or symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible for a checkup. A simple ferritin test can be performed by your doctor to determine if your ferritin levels are low. The test involves a simple blood draw. Normal serum ferritin levels are 12 to nanograms per milliliter and 12 to nanograms per milliliter for females and males respectively.

These normal values may vary slightly depending on the laboratory used. The lower ferritin levels, even if they fall within normal range, generally indicate lower iron levels. Iron absorption from dietary intake can vary tremendously.

Individuals absorb anywhere from less than 1 percent to more than 50 percent of all of dietary iron that they consume. The greater a person's iron deficiency, the more the individual will absorb from dietary sources as the body increases absorption from food to help replenish iron stores. The types of iron found in foods are heme and nonheme iron.

Heme iron is found in animal products and is more readily absorbed than nonheme iron, which is found in plant products. Good sources of heme iron include meats, poultry, oysters and shrimp, while iron-fortified cereals, lentils, beans and spinach are all sources of nonheme iron.

Iron deficiency anaemia

Iron absorption can be enhanced by eating nonheme iron foods with foods that have vitamin C and with other heme iron food sources; doing so increases the bioavailability of nonheme iron. Ashley Phillips is a registered dietitian and member of the American Dietetics Association. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and a Master of Science in human nutrition.

Skip to main content. Healthy Eating Nutrition Protein. Functions of Iron Iron provides support for the brain, immune system and healthy tissue functioning.Ferritin, a protein in the body, stores iron and releases it when needed, acting as a mediator and a transporter for iron. The amount of ferritin in the body is directly related to the amount of iron in the body.

Low ferritin levels caused by poor iron absorption or chronic or acute bleeding can lead to potentially serious health complications. When you have low ferritin levels, you will also have low iron levels.

Dr Tony Huge Low Ferritin Level Causes, Side Effects & Cure

Iron carries oxygen via the red blood cells. When iron levels drop, less oxygen travels through the body. Initially, you will experience shortness of breath, perspiration and fatigue. Prolonged oxygen deprivation results in difficulty catching your breath and fainting.

The skin becomes pale and the heart and lungs will be affected. This can be a life-threatening event. The part of the red blood cell that includes oxygen and iron is called hemoglobin. When you have low ferritin and iron levels, your hemoglobin level drops as well.

The shape, size and volume of a red blood cell changes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This morphology of red blood cells can be identified with a lab test. Symptoms of anemia include pale skin, pale nails, enlarged lymph nodes and spleen. Much like hemoglobin, myoglobin relies on iron and ferritin for proper function.

When skeletal muscles are damaged in injury or exercise, myoglobin is released into the bloodstream and travels to the muscle site for repair. Myoglobin carries the needed oxygen and nutrients. However, if myoglobin levels are low because of low ferritin, muscle repair will be delayed. Symptoms include increased muscle pain for a longer duration.

low ferritin symptoms

Increased pain elevates the blood pressure and heart rate. Low ferritin levels can cause an irregular heartbeat. The heart muscle is fueled by both hemoglobin and myoglobin.

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This compounded condition results in inadequate heart beats and poor quality heart contractions. The heart normally pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. The body as a whole will be compromised.

Some people can feel an irregular heartbeat as skipped beats.A storage protein called ferritin both transports iron throughout our bodies and helps moderate our iron levels. Low ferritin symptoms can indicate a number of conditions, including anemia, restless leg syndrome and celiac disease.

Low serum ferritin is a common problem in people with gluten intolerance. In celiac disease, antibodies first target the proximal small intestine the earlier part of your small intestinewhich is the part of your small intestine responsible for absorbing iron. Some forms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity NCGS also trigger antibodies that do damage to this part of your intestine, while other forms of NCGS trigger systemic inflammation, which may impede iron absorption.

Low ferritin is most common and most severe in celiac disease patients. Ferritin is an intracellular, globular protein complex in simpler terms, it is a soluble protein complex rather than an insoluble protein complex like fibrous proteins that performs two critical roles: it transports iron to all the tissues of your body and it helps moderate your iron levels from being too low or too high.

Iron is a key element of healthy hemoglobin, the molecule carrying oxygen to tissues all over your body. Ferritin performs transportation and moderation of this critical element throughout your body. Serum ferritin levels are tested to detect either low or high iron, but conditions associated with either low or high iron often require additional examination because ferritin levels can be raised when infections or a sources of chronic inflammation are present.

In other words, if you have an infection or some other inflammation, you could have borderline low iron but a serum ferritin test could still indicate a normal ferritin level. Back to Top. Early signs of low ferritin levels are easy to miss because they may seem mild or they may seem like a natural part of the ebb and flow of how you feel day in and day out.

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These earlier symptoms include:. If you fail to raise your ferritin, you may become anemic or begin experiencing the following low serum ferritin and low iron symptoms:. Chronic iron deficiency can lead to organ failure, so you should see a doctor if these last symptoms of low ferritin levels seem familiar to you.

Very low ferritin levels can be critical. Low serum ferritin is also associated with hypothyroid disease, so if you either suspect thyroid problems or are diagnosed with a thyroid problem, you might want to discuss an iron supplement with your doctor. Note that low ferritin is not the same thing as anemia but rather a precursor to anemia.

When you examine reasons for low ferritin, you should be able to narrow the cause down to one of those primary reasons fairly quickly. However, within each of these primary reasons you may find difficulty narrowing down your particular situation. There are two parts to the diet cause of low ferritin. First, you need to make sure you are consuming enough foods that contain iron. There are two forms of iron: Heme Iron and Non-heme iron. For example, calories of cooked spinach contains about 15 milligrams of iron, while calories of choice sirloin steak contains less than 1 milligram of iron.

The second part to the diet equation involves consuming enough of the nutrients required to help you absorb the iron you eat.

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The most important nutrients you need to integrate into your diet to help you better absorb iron are folic acid folate and vitamin C especially vitamin C. Fortified whole grains, citrus fruits, eggs and leafy green vegetables are all good sources of these nutrients. See the section below on Low Ferritin Treatment for more dietary suggestions to raise your ferritin levels. Another common cause of low ferritin is blood loss. Intestinal procedures, such as an appendectomy, surgeries addressing colon cancer or other intestinal disorders often cause low ferritin symptoms.

Intestinal procedures may reduce your ferritin levels because of either temporary damage done to the intestinal wall where iron is absorbed or by causing temporary internal bleeding or both.Low ferritin levels can cause symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, hair loss, and difficulty exercising.

It is the primary form of iron that is stored in cells. Iron is an essential element that the body needs in order to produce red blood cells. Our bodies cannot produce iron, so it much absorb it from the foods or supplements that we consume. The majority of iron that we absorb is used to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells. Most of the remaining iron is stored as ferritin in the cells.

Eventually, the ferritin levels may drop which is the first indication of iron deficiency. If this deficiency continues, the ferritin stores will eventually be depleted, hemoglobin production will be reduced, and anemia low blood levels will result.

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Therefore, a ferritin level is the earliest indicator we have to detect a deficiency of iron. In other words, the symptoms could also indicate a completely different issue than low ferritin.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

It can occur for weeks or even months before the ferritin levels are depleted to the point that iron and hemoglobin levels drop. As a result, many patients may have symptoms of low iron, but they are not treated because it has not progressed to the point of causing anemia which would then show up on standard lab tests.

Obviously, any level below 15 is "low" and should be addressed. However, people with ferritin levels in the "low normal" range of most laboratories can still be symptomatic.

If they are treated they will usually feel better. Remember, a low or suboptimal ferritin level may be the first indicator of iron levels that are beginning to drop. It may take weeks or even months before the other labs become abnormal enough to get the attention of your medical provider. Let's discuss the most obvious:. Many studies have shown that low iron impairs proper thyroid function.

low ferritin symptoms

Replacing low iron levels should result in an improvement in your thyroid function. This is especially important if you have known hypothyroidism. In many of those situations, the hair loss is often blamed on genetics or thyroid problems when it's actually from low iron.

As I discussed earlier, there is often a difference between a "normal" lab result and an "optimal" lab result. Other nutrient deficiencies should also be considered, including selenium, zinc, and l-lysine.

Oxygen is required for normal energy production in the mitochondria of the cells. When the iron is low, oxygen transport may be impaired. This includes skeletal muscle. A decrease in energy production in skeletal muscles will result in a decrease in strength and exercise capacity. This will typically present as an increase in heart rate and worsening shortness of breath more than you would expect at your level of fitness while exercising.

This makes sense if you think about it. If you have less oxygen getting to your tissues, then the heart rate will increase and the respiratory rate will increase to try to compensate.

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If your amount of exercise decreases, typically your body weight will increase which worsens insulin and leptin resistance.Home Open Mic. Low Ferritin Levels - Symptoms When there are decreased levels of ferritin, symptoms seen in the body will include signs of anemia but, it will also depend on the underlying cause.

So, what are the symptoms of low ferritin levels? Read on to find out Ferritin is a small protein that is present in blood.

low ferritin symptoms

This protein is a very important molecule as it is responsible for storing iron that is ingested in the diet. Ferritin stores iron in a non-toxic form, as free iron is toxic to the body. Hence, when a person shows symptoms of low ferritin levels, then tests are done to check for the same.

Thus, when there are low ferritin levels, symptoms exhibited include those seen in diseases like anemia and restless leg syndrome. Before we go onto the symptoms, let us first see what leads to decreased levels of ferritin in the blood.

Causes of Low Ferritin Levels There can be many different conditions that can lead to decreased levels of ferritin. It is said that hypothyroidism is often implicated as a possible cause of this condition. This is because when there are low levels of thyroid hormone, then the amount of hydrochloric acid secreted in the stomach is quite less.

Thus, there are low levels of ferritin, which leads to decreased absorption of iron. This is also seen in other diseases of the digestive tract where there is malabsorption in the gut. Symptoms of Low Ferritin Levels The symptoms will depend on the underlying cause that is responsible for the decreased amount of ferritin in the blood.

low ferritin symptoms

However, the most common symptom that is seen are symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. In this condition, the low iron symptoms include severe weakness, fatigue, low energy levels, easy mental and physical exhaustion, pale skin, headaches, etc.

Basically, all these symptoms are seen because as there is a deficiency of iron in the blood, there will be low hemoglobin and hematocrit, which will lead to decreased amount of oxygen reaching the cells. Thus, fatigue and overall weakness is seen. Other symptoms of anemia include brittle skin, hair loss. Chronic irritability, breathless on doing any kind of strenuous physical activity.

If there are very low ferritin levels, symptoms will be quite severe, like dizziness, depression, difficulty swallowing, poor memory, etc. Leg cramps is also a common symptom seen. In fact, low levels of ferritin have been associated with restless leg syndrome, wherein there is an irresistible urge to constantly move one's legs due to constant discomfort, that may be mild or severe in nature.

Every one in five cases of people that complain of restless leg syndrome are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia and low ferritin symptoms. If a person has hypothyroidism, then besides the symptoms of low iron and oxygen levels in the body, he will also show symptoms of hypothyroidism, like lethargy, drowsiness, decreased metabolic rate, weight gain, intolerance towards cold, etc.

If the person has malabsorption syndrome, then there will mostly be other symptoms like deficiency of other minerals, vitamins and food groups seen. Hence, the types and severity of ferritin deficiency symptoms is largely dependent on the underlying cause, though, symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are almost always present. The serum ferritin test is done to check for the total body iron storage and so, is really the best test to measure the iron status in the body.

Ferritin Deficiency Symptoms

Although initially, when there are low ferritin levels, symptoms may not exist at all, that is, in borderline cases, there may not be any symptoms seen. However, if symptoms do develop, then with the help of some simple investigations, this condition can be diagnosed and treated at the earliest. Don't Miss. Have Something to Say? What Others Said. All rights reserved.