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Iron deficiency, anaemia and ferritin

Basic blood count (perusverenkuva, B-PVKT) is a blood test that provides lots of data of the condition of the body, including possible haemorrhages, inflammations, haematopoietic disorders and nutrition. Iron deficiency is particularly common among adolescents, fertile women and endurance athletes, and it can decrease performance significantly by causing anaemia, i.e. low haemoglobin levels. Iron is required by the body to generate sufficient amounts of haemoglobin, but iron deficiency can only be detected in the basic blood count once it develops into anaemia.

Anaemia and the causes of iron deficiency

Iron deficiency usually develops as a consequence of heavy menstrual bleeding or other haemorrhages (haemorrhoids, stomach ulcer, gastrointestinal haemorrhage), but it can also be a result of strenuous physical activities and insufficient iron intake (for example, malabsorption, certain medications, special diets, vegetarians, endurance athletes). Unless iron deficiency is treated, the generation of blood cells and haemoglobin is insufficient, resulting in anaemia. In iron deficiency anaemia, the red blood cells are small and colourless, and these typical indicators of iron deficiency are apparent in the basic blood count test.

The anaemia detected in this test can also be caused by vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency possibly due to malabsorption, certain medications or, in some cases, poor nutrition. In the case of vitamin deficiency, however, the red blood cells are large in size, and even if anaemia is diagnosed, distinguishing it from iron deficiency anaemia is easy by studying the results of the basic blood count.

Additional indicators of iron deficiency anaemia include low ferritin levels and high levels of transferrin receptor (S-TfR), which is used to import iron into cells.

Ferritin – an indicator of the body’s iron levels

Before the onset actual anaemia, the low level of iron can be detected by studying the amount of ferritin in blood (S-Ferrit). Ferritin is an indicator of the body’s iron levels, and the patient might experience the symptoms of iron deficiency (for example, fatigue, paleness, shortness of breath, hair loss) already when the amount of ferritin is within the reference range. Normal amount of ferritin is not always an indicator of the sufficient level of iron, however, as the amount of ferritin is also increased by acute and chronic inflammatory diseases (for example, certain phases of rheumatoid arthritis).

If the amount of ferritin is low or at the lower end of the reference range, iron deficiency should be treated once the possibility of other causes for the iron deficiency have been ruled out.

Iron deficiency treatment

Eating a varied diet that includes red meat provides a good basis for preventing iron deficiency, but treating an existing iron deficiency requires a medication, i.e. eating iron supplements for several months. Dairy products inhibit the absorption of iron from nutrition, whereas vitamin C improves the absorption process. That is why it is recommended to drink liquids that contain vitamin C when taking iron supplements.

How to request these tests?

Basic blood count and ferritin (B-PVKT and S-Ferrit) can be tested in our laboratory without a referral. You can book a time at any Mehiläinen location via the online booking service. You do not have to remain without food or liquids prior to the sampling, and the test does not need to be performed at a certain time of the day.

Price of basic blood count and ferritin tests

The price list for laboratory tests shows the prices of the most common samples and tests without Kela reimbursement.

Where can the results be viewed?

The results of laboratory tests are stored in the OmaMehiläinen service, where you can browse them whenever you like. Download the OmaMehiläinen application to access the service on your phone. The browser version of OmaMehiläinen can be accessed here.