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Albumin Blood Test

What is an Albumin Blood Test?

An albumin blood test measures the amount of albumin in your blood. Albumin is a protein made by your liver. Albumin helps keep fluid in your bloodstream so it doesn't leak into other tissues. It is also carries various substances throughout your body, including hormones, vitamins, and enzymes. Low albumin levels can indicate a problem with your liver or kidneys.

Other names: ALB

What is it used for?

An albumin blood test is a type of liver function test. Liver function tests are blood tests that measure different enzymes and proteins in the liver, including albumin. An albumin test may also be part of a comprehensive metabolic panel, a test that measures several substances in your blood. These substances include electrolytes, glucose, and proteins such as albumin.

Why do I need an albumin blood test?

Your health care provider may have ordered liver function tests or a comprehensive metabolic panel, which include tests for albumin, as part your regular checkup. You may also need this test if you have symptoms of liver or kidney disease.

Symptoms of liver disease include:

  • Jaundice, a condition that causes your skin and eyes to turn yellow
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Pale-colored stool

Symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • Swelling around the abdomen, thighs, or face
  • More frequent urination, especially at night
  • Foamy, bloody, or coffee-colored urine
  • Nausea
  • Itchy skin

What happens during an albumin 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 to test for albumin in blood. If your health care provider has 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?

If your albumin levels are lower than normal, it may indicate one of the following conditions:

Higher than normal levels of albumin may indicate dehydration or severe diarrhea.

If your albumin levels are not in the normal range, it doesn't necessarily mean you have a medical condition needing treatment. Certain drugs, including steroids, insulin, and hormones, can raise albumin levels. Other drugs, including birth control pills, can lower your albumin levels.

References

  1. American Liver Foundation [Internet]. New York: American Liver Foundation; c2017. Liver Function Tests [updated 2016 Jan 25; cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/liverfunctiontests
  2. Hepatitis Central [Internet]. Hepatitis Central; c1994–2017. What is Albumin? [cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: Available from: http://www.hepatitiscentral.com/hcv/whatis/albumin
  3. Hinkle J, Cheever K. Brunner & Suddarth's Handbook of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests. 2nd Ed, Kindle. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; c2014. Albumin; 32 p.
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. Johns Hopkins Medicine; Health Library: Common Liver Tests [cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/liver_biliary_and_pancreatic_disorders/common_liver_function_tests_85,p00687
  5. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Albumin: The Test [updated 2016 Apr 8; cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/albumin/tab/test
  6. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Albumin: The Test Sample [updated 2016 Apr 8; cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/albumin/tab/sample
  7. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP): The Test [updated 2017 Mar 22; cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/cmp/tab/test
  8. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP): The Test Sample [updated 2017 Mar 22; cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/cmp/tab/sample
  9. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What Are the Risks of Blood Tests? [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 6 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/risks
  10. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; What To Expect with Blood Tests [updated 2012 Jan 6; cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/with
  11. Wisconsin Dialysis [Internet]. Madison (WI): University of Wisconsin Health; Albumin: Important Facts You Should Know [cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://www.wisconsindialysis.org/kidney-health/healthy-eating-on-dialysis/albumin-important-facts-you-should-know
  12. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Albumin (Blood) [cited 2017 Apr 26]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=albumin_blood

The medical information provided is for informational purposes only, and is not to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact your health care provider with questions you may have regarding medical conditions or the interpretation of test results.

In the event of a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.