Ferritin is a naturally produced protein molecule that is needed by your body's cells to store and control iron content throughout your body. The amount of ferritin in your body reflects the amount of iron stored as well, so the more ferritin you have, the more iron you have. There can be complications resulting from excess ferritin, primarily due to high levels of iron in your body. Talk with your doctor about ferritin and iron to make sure you don't develop iron toxicity.
Mechanism of Action
Ferritin is a globular protein complex, meaning it has the ability to store molecules inside it and shuttle them inside your body's cells, where it can release those molecules into the cell itself. If iron molecules were free-floating through your blood stream, your body will filter them out through your kidneys and excrete them through your urine. Ferritin prevents iron from being lost by keeping it soluble and non-toxic so it can be used by your body as it becomes necessary.
According to National Institutes of Health online medical encyclopedia Medline Plus, a blood test for ferritin can be performed to assess whether you have elevated levels of this protein. In men, ferritin levels should range between 12 and 300 ng/ml, and women should range between 12 and 150 ng/ml. Higher than normal ferritin levels may indicate that you have an inflammatory disorder, such as arthritis or acute injury, alcoholic-related liver disease, frequent red blood cell transfusions or hemochromatosis, which is abnormally high iron levels. Ferritin is also a reactive protein that is elevated in the acute phase of disease and malnourishment.
Hemochromatosis is one of the more serious conditions that indicate higher than normal ferritin levels. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information's PubMed Health website, hemochromatosis can cause abdominal pain, fatigue, skin darkening, joint pain, loss of body hair, decreased sexual desire, weight loss and general weakness. To lower iron levels back to normal levels, you may have to get blood drawn to remove excess ferritin, a process called a phlebotomy, as well as reducing your dietary intake of iron.
Having elevated levels of ferritin is not harmful by itself, rather it is an indicator of other symptoms that are damaging your body. Getting your blood tested on a regular basis to assess ferritin levels can help determine if you have internal damage or a disease that needs to be treated medically. Talk with your doctor about getting your ferritin levels tested, especially if you suffer from alcoholism, anorexia, arthritis or hemochromatosis.