Delta-ALA is a protein (amino acid) produced by the liver. A test can be done to measure the amount of this substance in the urine.
How the Test is Performed
After you provide a urine sample, it is tested in the lab. This is called a random urine sample.
If needed, your health care provider may ask you to collect your urine at home over 24 hours. This is called a 24-hour urine sample. Your provider will tell you how to do this. Follow instructions exactly so that the results are accurate.
How to Prepare for the Test
Your health care provider may tell you to temporarily stop taking any medicines that can affect test results. Be sure to tell your provider about all the medicines you take. These include:
- Penicillin (an antibiotic)
- Barbiturates (medicnes to treat anxiety)
- Birth control pills
- Griseofulvin (medicine to treat fungal infections)
How the Test will Feel
The test involves only normal urination. There is no discomfort.
Why the Test is Performed
This test looks for an increased level of delta-ALA. It may be used to help diagnose a condition called porphyria.
In general, the normal range is less than 6 mg for a random urine sample. The normal range is 0 to 7 mg for a 24 hour sample.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly from one lab to another. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
An increased level of urinary delta-ALA may indicate:
- Lead poisoning
- Porphyria (several types)
A decreased level may occur with chronic (long-term) liver disease.
There are no risks.
Fuller SJ, Wiley JS. Heme biosynthesis and its disorders. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Silberstein LE, Heslop HE, Weitz JI, Anastisi J, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 36.
Update Date 1/27/2015
Updated by: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.