High ferritin levels are unusually high levels of ferritin, a compound the body uses to store iron in its tissues so it will be available when it is necessary. A doctor can order a blood test to check on levels of this compound if she suspects a patient may have a disorder related to abnormal ferritin levels. The test can include evaluation for other compounds to provide a complete picture of the patient's health, along with references the doctor can use to rule out some possible causes if the patient's ferritin levels are higher than they should be.
To test levels of this compound, a doctor needs a blood sample. In women, ferritin levels usually hover between 13 and 150 nanograms per milliliter, while men have a slightly higher range, from 30 to 400 nanograms per milliliter. Some labs may use different frames of reference, and ferritin levels may be considered high at the top end of this range or when they fall outside it.
One potential cause of high ferritin levels is inflammation. A doctor can request a C-reactive protein test at the same time to check for a common inflammatory marker. If the test has high results, it will explain the ferritin levels. If the results are normal or low, it suggests that the patient may have an underlying problem, like an iron storage disorder leading to iron overload. Hemochromatosis, sideroblastic anemia, and hemolytic anemia can all be associated with high ferritin levels.
Patients with too much iron stored in their bodies can experience symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, and heart problems. Usually these symptoms emerge progressively over time. Patients with moderately high levels may have no symptoms, and could feel generally healthy. As the levels rise and the condition becomes chronic, the patient will start to experience increasing symptoms. A doctor may evaluate a patient for an iron storage disorder on the grounds of family history, symptoms, or a desire to be very thorough with a physical examination.
If a patient has high ferritin levels, the doctor needs to determine why, to develop an appropriate treatment plan. This may include medications, dietary recommendations, and other measures. It may also be necessary to conduct repeat testing on a regular basis to track the patient's iron levels and determine if the patient is responding to treatment. Patients with a history of high ferritin levels should make sure it is in their charts so care providers know to be aware of it during diagnostic evaluations.