Causes of High Ferritin

Before asking what the causes of high ferritin levels are, you may want to know what ferritin is. Ferritin is a protein in your body that stores iron and regulates its distribution. Containing about 20 percent of iron, it resides in your cells with only a small amount traveling in your bloodstream. You will find the greatest amount of ferritin in your liver cells and immune system.

If you are experiencing high levels of ferritin, you may suffer from symptoms such as:

  • Chest pains
  • Joint pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Stomach pain
  • Feelings of weakness or fatigue

What Are Causes of High Ferritin?

High level of ferritin usually represents high level of iron, and it may has various causes. You have to consult your doctor before pinpointing the cause.

1.   Iron Overload

When your ferritin levels are higher than 1,000 ng/mL, you may have a very high buildup of iron in your body. Here are some causes of iron overload:

Primary causes

  • Hereditary haemochromatosis (HH): When you suffer from this condition, your body absorbs more iron than it needs. The iron you need is usually extracted through your intestines. When you have enough iron, your body slows down the rate of absorption. Hereditary haemochromatosis prevents your body from changing the rate, which will make you absorb more iron than you can use.
  • Hereditary aceruloplasminemia (Wilson’s disease): Another disorder which affects iron absorption is hereditary aceruloplasminemia, otherwise known as Wilson’s disease. It is a rare condition that acts similar to HH. However, it can also result in diabetes or hepatic iron overload.
  • Familial hyperferritinemia and cataract syndrome: This is a very rare type of genetic disorder that causes high levels of ferritin in blood.

Secondary causes

  • Transfusion overload: If you receive a blood transfusion, you increase your chance of suffering from a high ferritin level. This condition will occur if someone receives about 20 units of blood.
  • Ineffective erythropoiesis: This is a kind of genetic disorder caused by a gene mutation which interferes with metabolism, and it results in iron overload.
  • Excess dietary iron: If you are consuming too much dietary iron and your system can't properly process and store it, you may suffer from elevated ferritin in your body.

2.   Causes Without Iron Overload

  • Hyperthyroidism: When your thyroid is not working properly, it can alter your ferritin levels. Hyperthyroidism is one of the causes of high ferritin. You will need to undergo thyroid function tests to make sure whether there are something wrong with your thyroid. 
  • Liver disease: Liver disease is another cause of high ferritin, brought on by altered iron and glucose metabolism. If you are suffering a viral infection associated with hepatitis, you may suffer from elevated ferritin levels as well.
  • Alcohol excess: Heavy drinkers may experience increased iron stores which will lead to high ferritin levels.
  • Inflammatory conditions: The high ferritin level is often the reflection of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, if you are suffering from high ferritin level, consider it as a possible cause.
  • Bacteria infections: When you have an infection, your body will start stockpiling iron to ferritin to prevent the bacteria from using iron. In this case, you also will have a high ferritin level.
  • Malignancy: High ferritin levels can be an indication of cancer related with blood.

What to Do About High Ferritin

With a high ferritin level, your healthcare provider will evaluate the results, together with results of other tests to determine what to do next so that you get the most proper treatment.

Understand Your Ferritin Test

1. Why You Have to Do the Test

A ferritin test serves many purposes:

  • To make sure the causes of high ferritin: The test can show if you are suffering from diseases such as anemia, hepatitis, restless legs syndrome or adult still’s disease, etc.
  • To monitor a medical condition: If diagnosed with an illness or disorder, the ferritin test can help your doctor monitor your treatment for effectiveness.

2.     The Normal Values of Ferritin

This reference chart is only a guide. Only your doctor can tell you whether your level is normal.

Type of Individuals

Normal Ferritin Range


18-270 ng/mL


18-160 ng/mL


7-140 ng/mL

Babies 1-5 months old

50-200 ng/mL

Newborn infants

25-200 ng/mL

Another thing to note is that the ranges in chart are just standard acceptable ranges. Different laboratories can have varying values. It is important that your doctor reviews your tests first and then explains the results.

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