What does albumin mean in a test?

April 7, 2010

Albumin is a protein manufactured by the liver. It helps balance the amount of blood flowing through the arteries and veins and moves the calcium, progesterone, bilirubin and medications through a person’s blood.  It also stops fluid in the blood from leaking into the tissues. A serum albumin test is recommended when a doctor wants to check the level of protein in the blood. The test also helps in diagnosing kidney or liver disease and checks whether the body is absorbing enough protein. Low albumin levels could be indicative of many disorders and diseases. Albumin testing therefore also helps in monitoring treatment, or seeing how far a disease has progressed. The results of such a test may lead to further tests in order to arrive at a proper diagnosis of a person’s medical condition.

Doctors usually order albumin tests if a person exhibits symptoms of nephrotic syndrome (swelling around the stomach, legs and eyes), or if a person shows signs of jaundice (weight loss, fatigue etc). Albumin tests also monitor and check the nutritional status of an individual. If this is the reason for the test, the albumin test may be done along with a prealbumin test .This is usually done if a person has sudden weight loss. The test may also be performed for Hepatic encephalopathy, Tropical sprue, Wilson’s disease, Membranous nephropathy, Diabetic nephropathy/sclerosis and Hepatorenal syndrome,

The normal range of albumin levels is 3.4- 5.4 grams per deciliter (g/dL). There might be a marginal difference in the ranges in different laboratories. Low albumin levels are indicative of liver disease and further enzyme tests will be required to pinpoint which one it is. Lower levels also show that the kidneys are unable to prevent the albumin from leaking into the blood. Lower than normal levels could be due to the following:-

  • Excessive burns
  • Malnutrition
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Ascites
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Liver diseases such as hepatocellular necrosis, cirrhosis or hepatitis
  • Crohn's disease, sprue, or Whipple's disease - all malabsorption syndromes
  • A low protein diet

A high level of albumin indicates dehydration. This test is not usually used to check or monitor this condition.  Albumin levels also decrease during pregnancy. If you undergo this test while receiving intravenous fluids, the results may be inaccurate. Drugs that increase albumin levels are insulin, growth hormones, androgens and anabolic steroids. Be sure to inform your doctor of any medication you are on before taking the test to ensure that there is an accurate interpretation of the results.

Submitted by M T on April 7, 2010 at 02:55

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