What is a globulin test?
Globulins are a group of proteins in your blood. They are made in your liver by your immune system. Globulins play an important role in liver function, blood clotting, and fighting infection. There are four main types of globulins. They are called alpha 1, alpha 2, beta, and gamma. Just as there are different types of globulins, there are different types of globulin tests. These include:
- Total protein test. This blood test measures two types of proteins: globulin and albumin. If protein levels are low, it can mean that you have liver or kidney disease.
- Serum protein electrophoresis. This blood test measures gamma globulins and other proteins in your blood. It can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions, including disorders of the immune system and a type of cancer called multiple myeloma.
Other names for globulin tests: Serum globulin electrophoresis, total protein
What is it used for?
Globulin tests can be used to help diagnose a variety of conditions, including:
- Liver damage or disease
- Kidney disease
- Nutritional problems
- Autoimmune disorders
- Certain types of cancer
Why do I need a globulin test?
Your health care provider may order globulin tests as part your regular checkup or to help diagnose specific conditions. A total protein test may be included in a series of tests to check how well your liver is working. These tests, called liver function tests, may be ordered if you are at risk for liver disease or have symptoms of liver disease, which may include:
- Jaundice, a condition that causes your skin and eyes to turn yellow
- Nausea and vomiting
- Recurring fatigue
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen, feet, and legs
- Loss of appetite
A serum protein electrophoresis test measures gamma globulins and other proteins. This test may be ordered to diagnose disorders related to the immune system, including:
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple myeloma, a type of cancer
What happens during a globulin test?
Globulin tests are blood tests. During a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don't need any special preparations for a globulin test. If your health care provider has also ordered other blood tests, you may need to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before the test. Your health care provider will let you know if there are any special instructions to follow.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
Low globulin levels can be a sign of liver or kidney disease. High levels may indicate infection, inflammatory disease or immune disorders. High globulin levels may also indicate certain types of cancer, such as multiple myeloma, Hodgkin's disease, or malignant lymphoma. However, abnormal results may be due to certain medications, dehydration, or other factors. To learn what your results mean, talk to your health care provider.
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