High albumin: what is its analysis for?

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As we are discovering lately with our posts, blood is made up of dozens of components, each of them with a special function that makes our organism work properly and in a healthy way. The downside of such a sophisticated system as the human body is that everything must be in the right measure and in the right way; anything that ‘goes wrong’ can cause discomfort and illnesses of varying degrees of concern.

This is also the case for high albumin, a blood protein, the most abundant in serum (50-60%). It is undoubtedly a very interesting element, as it fulfils several vital functions and is able to remain in circulation for about 19 days until it is finally metabolised in the tissues. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what we know so far about albumin, including its normal levels and when these may be a cause for concern.

What is albumin?

As mentioned above, albumin is found in blood, our favourite liquid, but also in other components, such as eggs, milk and other substances of both plant and animal origin. We could even call it a super protein, as some of its functions are to keep the fluid inside the blood vessels from leaking out, to transport thyroid hormones and fatty acids (also vitamins, drugs, enzymes and ions such as calcium) or to mobilise unconjugated bilirubin, but it also has some minor purposes.

It is synthesised by the liver and metabolised in the tissues. Concentrations may vary if a person has liver disease, does not consume adequate nutrients or suffers from severe inflammatory processes. In fact, albumin may increase in cases of dehydration.

This test is usually requested as a matter of course, as there are occasions when it is included in the routine full metabolic profile check-up. In addition to the ‘normal’, this test can be very useful in the following scenarios:

  • Todetect liver diseases. It should be noted that they often appear together with symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, lack of appetite, tiredness, dark urine, pale-coloured stools and jaundice.
  • To diagnose kidney diseases. Symptoms of these diseases usually include abdominal bloating, frothy or bloody urine production, elevated urination, nausea and itchy skin.

 

Now, of course, we would like to appeal for calm: a low albumin level need not be a clear symptom of any disease that needs full or immediate medical treatment. It is possible that the unevenness is due to the intake of some type of medication that alters the normal values, but prevention is always better than cure, so if symptoms associated with both a rise and a fall in protein appear, it is essential to see a doctor for tests to determine the exact diagnosis of the problem.

 

Blood albumin analysis

The albumin test is usually ordered to analyse the nutritional status of the person and to help in the diagnosis if possible kidney and liver diseases are suspected. Another case where it is often demanded is when surgery is to be performed on a patient in order to corroborate his or her general condition and assess whether the surgical procedure can be continued as planned.

The albumin test will also be ordered with other tests, such as urea, creatinine and total blood proteins if there are symptoms of liver disease (jaundice, kidney disease).

The positive side of this test is that it is very simple for the patient: no fasting is required, only a blood sample obtained in the laboratory. We must remember at this point that the person who is going to undergo the test has the obligation to report if he/she is under treatment with medication (anabolic steroids, insulin and growth hormone) because it may interfere with the result of the test.

 

Levels

Let us now turn to the most normal or stable albumin levels. As always, the ‘healthy’ value of this protein in an individual will depend on their age, sex and medical history (if they have any diseases or irregularities, for example). That said, normal values have been stipulated to range from 3.4 to 5.4 grams per decilitre of blood (g/dL). In children and young people the normal intervals may be somewhat lower, but this does not mean that there is a risk of anything.

High albumin. An above-average value would be anything above 5.4 grams per decilitre. This condition is known as hyperalbuminaemia and is usually accompanied by dehydration and may be caused by, for example, diarrhoea. This is because there is a decrease in the amount of water in the body, which alters the albumin to water ratio, resulting in more albumin in the blood.

 

However, there are other causes of high albumin:

  • HIV / AIDS. This virus attacks all the immune cells in the body, making our protective barrier weaker and making it much easier for other viruses to attack us. The result is an elevated serum globulin level, as the body seeks to balance itself by producing more immunoglobulins.
  • Monoclonal gammopathy. This condition occurs when the body either produces monoclonal protein or M-protein, an actually abnormal element, which, however, does not usually cause many problems. However, if left untreated and untreated, it can develop into something much worse, such as cancer, among other problems. The helplessness in the face of monoclonal gammopathy is because it is impossible to predict which condition will progress and which will not.
  • Multiple myeloma. In this case the myeloma cells (which produce antibodies) become cancerous and begin to multiply aggressively, causing the plasma cells to increase in number, manifesting as high blood albumin.
  • Amyloidosis. This disease also causes the appearance of abnormal proteins called amyloids, which attach themselves to certain organs (kidneys, heart, spleen, liver, etc.) and produce a dysfunction in the organism that causes high albumin in the blood. Depending on the cause of the amyloidosis, the patient may show different clinical features.

 

High albumin has a number of symptoms, including some of those just mentioned, which in fact could very well be due to other diseases. However, we must know what they are and pay attention to them in order to see a doctor as soon as we detect them if they continue over time:

  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness both standing and sitting.
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason.
  • Fever.
  • Tingling or numbness.

 

Although it is necessary to be attentive to any symptoms, we do not recommend self-diagnosis; if anything abnormal is observed, the procedure is to go to a doctor or a laboratory to have the necessary procedures carried out according to the patient’s symptoms.

Low albumin. The situation can also be the reverse, i.e. hypoalbuminaemia or lower than normal albumin values. A number of symptoms can be observed accompanying this condition:

  • Kidney problems with increased urinary excretion (nephrotic syndrome and chronic renal failure).
  • Intestinal disorders. In this case there is substantial loss of protein, including albumin, through the gastrointestinal tract. It may be due to certain diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease.
  • Malnutrition. There is no proper absorption or adequate intake of nutrients, which interferes with the absorption or production of albumin.
  • Critical illnesses. This case alters the distribution of albumin between the intravascular and extravascular compartments, affecting its production in the body and increasing its degradation.
  • Inflammatory processes such as heart failure, burns, pancreatitis or delicate surgeries.

 

A low albumin value can also tell us that a problem is occurring in the liver due to a decrease in the production of this protein. Therefore, in order to rule out problems, the doctor usually orders additional tests to assess the health of this organ.

 

Treatment

If a high albumin level is found to be present, the doctor will likely order additional tests to detect precisely what is happening to cause the albumin irregularity. There are slightly more specific tests that can help determine the cause, such as the serum protein electrophoresis test, which measures every protein in the blood. In this way it is easier to rule out those that cause the problem from those that do not. It is usually ordered when bone marrow disease is suspected.

Therefore, depending on the cause, the treatment will vary, as each problem has a specific solution that will affect the rest of the body and the patient’s daily life as little as possible. In this case there are no home remedies to solve the problem, but it is advisable and almost obligatory to follow a varied and balanced diet, do some physical activity (not necessarily high intensity) on a regular basis, drink water and avoid tobacco and alcohol (the latter in excess). Beyond that, it will be up to the doctor to explain how to proceed from that point onwards.

Hence, at AmbarLab We offer more than 3,000 laboratory tests, support in the management of your business and the development of new projects. We believe in the relationship with our customer as a key factor in the patient’s wellbeing and that is why we provide answers to all their needs, whether they are a hospital, a laboratory, a drug developer or a medical researcher.

Our services range from the performance of laboratory diagnostic tests to the development of new projects and advice on laboratory management issues. If you want to find out more, just contact our team, who will be ready to answer all your questions.

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