Ferritin and hair loss
Ferritin and hair loss

COULD FERRITIN LEVELS BE LINKED TO HAIR HEALTH?

Ferritin is a protein that stores iron, releasing it when needed for metabolic function.  Ferritin is usually stored in the cells of the body and a small amount circulates in the blood. Higher concentrations of ferritin are stored in the liver and reticuliendothelial cells.  Ferritin binds tightly to iron until the body needs to produce more blood cells.

When there is enough circulating iron, iron stores should remain in the normal range.  When iron levels are low, ferritin levels drop and when a person does not have enough ferritin, iron deficiency can occur. As iron is essential for the production of red blood cells that carry that carry haemoglobin to the hair follicle, it is important that there are adequate stores for normal hair growth.

WHAT DOES A NORMAL FERRITIN RESULT MEAN?

A normal blood test result means the biomarker tested falls within the range defined by the laboratory.  A ferritin level at the lower range of normal may have a detrimental effect on the hair.

If ferritin levels are low, other biomarkers like hemoglobin, serum iron and transferrin saturation can be investigated for abnormal or lower than optimal ranges.   The ferritin test can be misleading in cases where there is inflammation in the body or an infection, so taken alone, it is not a reliable indication of whether iron deficiency is present.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT FERRITIN LEVELS

Low ferritin levels is not an automatic indicator of a low iron as many woman can have low ferritin levels and have a healthy head of hair.  High ferritin levels do not denote adequate iron storage, as ferritin can be raised where tissue damage, infection of inflammation is present. Ferritin results must always be viewed in a wider context taking into account medical history and type of hair loss.  Whilst low levels of ferritin may be found in women with hair loss, ferritin levels may not be the cause.

WHEN ARE FERRITIN LEVELS TRULY A CONCERN?

Ferritin levels above 40 µg/L are recommended for hair growth and trichologists advise a level of over 70µg/L.

Regardless of your individual result, other important parameters need to be investigated such as liver function, and vitamins and minerals (such as zinc and B9).  Diagnosing the cause of hair loss can be difficult with blood tests as the results can often be misleading.

If you are concerned about your hair loss see a doctor or a hair loss specialist that can advise you on the next steps.  If you are concerened about hair loss due to low iron, include plenty of iron rich food in your diet such as red meat and dark green vegetables.  If you do you are aware you have an iron deficiency, this may need to corrected with iron supplements over a period of time, though it is likely that iron supplementation alone will not correct the problem.

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