The increase in ferritin is a condition that affects about 5% of adults. High levels of ferritin are found during inflammatory diseases and may lead to suspected pathologies of iron accumulation, but even more frequently they reflect metabolic diseases that put cardiovascular and liver complications at risk. Dr. Luca Valenti, an expert in Internal Medicine in Milan, explains what are the most common causes and how to deal with them.
What is ferritin? And what are the most frequent causes of increasing its values? Ferritin is a protein present in the blood, where it is released in response to increased body iron, but also inflammatory stimuli and stress at the cellular level (particularly at the level of the liver cells and the immune system). The ferritin dosage is commonly required among common blood tests to assess the body status of iron. While reduced values often indicate a lack of this metal, the increase in ferritin levels reflects iron accumulation diseases in only a few cases (see table). In fact, the most frequent causes are represented by metabolic alterations associated with overweight and diabetes, or alcohol abuse, which cause excessive accumulation of fat and inflammation in the liver and can lead to advanced liver disease (cirrhosis and liver cancer), chronic inflammatory diseases, tumors and blood diseases. In particular, values ≥ 1000 ng / ml are associated with a higher risk of high health risk. The occasional finding of an increase in ferritin is therefore an alarm bell that must lead to investigate possible causes, so as to be able to promptly prevent the onset of health complications. In the presence of a marked increase in the ferritin values it is therefore important to determine the presence of inflammatory, tumor and liver diseases and iron overload with the appropriate investigations, based on the assessment of both the history and clinical examination, and blood completion tests, that instrumental. The most frequent cause, however, remains the presence of hepatic inflammation in those suffering from "fatty liver". In these cases, the reduction and suspension of alcoholic and sugary drinks, physical activity, the improvement of the quality of the diet and the weight loss, with a weight loss of> 5% of the initial weight, is able to improve the picture. For patients with more severe forms of hyperferritinemia, scientific research is also moving. In the centers of reference, new drugs are currently undergoing clinical trials to counteract the accumulation of fat, inflammation and fibrosis in the liver.