Amylase is an enzyme that helps digest carbohydrates. It is made in the pancreas and the glands that make saliva. When the pancreas is diseased or inflamed, amylase releases into the blood.
A test can be done to measure the level of this enzyme in your blood.
Amylase may also be measured with an amylase urine test.
How the Test is Performed
A blood sample is taken from a vein.
How to Prepare for the Test
No special preparation is needed. However, you should avoid alcohol before the test. The health care provider may ask you to stop taking drugs that may affect the test. DO NOT stop taking any medicines without first talking to your provider.
Drugs that can increase amylase measurements include:
- Birth control pills
- Cholinergic medications
- Ethacrynic acid
- Opiates (codeine, meperidine, and morphine)
- Thiazide diuretics
How the Test will Feel
You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted to draw blood. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
The normal range is 23 to 85 units per liter (U/L). Some laboratories give a range of 40 to 140 U/L.
Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Increased blood amylase levels may occur due to:
- Acute pancreatitis
- Cancer of the pancreas, ovaries, or lungs
- Gallbladder attack caused by disease
- Gastroenteritis (severe)
- Infection of the salivary glands (such as mumps) or a blockage
- Intestinal blockage
- Pancreatic or bile duct blockage
- Perforated ulcer
- Tubal pregnancy (may have burst open)
Decreased amylase levels may occur due to:
- Cancer of the pancreas
- Damage to the pancreas
- Kidney disease
- Toxemia of pregnancy
Slight risks from having blood drawn may include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Fainting or feeling light-headed
- Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
- Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Forsmark CE. Pancreatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 144.
Tenner S, Steinberg WM. Acute pancreatitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 58.
Update Date 2/4/2015
Updated by: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist with gastrointestinal specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.