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Amylase Test

What is an Amylase Test?

An amylase test measures the amount of amylase in your blood or urine. Amylase is an enzyme, or special protein, that helps you digest food. Most of your amylase is made in the pancreas and salivary glands. A small amount of amylase in your blood and urine is normal. A larger or smaller amount may mean that you have a disorder of the pancreas, an infection, alcoholism, or another medical condition.

Other names: Amy test, serum amylase, urine amylase

What is it used for?

An amylase blood test is used to diagnose or monitor a problem with your pancreas, including pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. An amylase urine test may be ordered along with or after an amylase blood test. Urine amylase results can help diagnose pancreatic and salivary gland disorders. One or both types of tests may be used to help monitor amylase levels in people who are being treated for pancreatic or other disorders.

Why do I need an amylase test?

Your health care provider may order an amylase blood and/or urine test if you have symptoms of a pancreatic disorder. These symptoms include:

Your provider may also order an amylase test to monitor an existing condition, such as:

What happens during an amylase test?

For an amylase 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.

For an amylase urine test, you will be given instructions to provide a "clean catch" sample. The clean catch method includes the following steps:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Clean your genital area with a cleansing pad given to you by your provider. Men should wipe the tip of their penis. Women should open their labia and clean from front to back.
  3. Start to urinate into the toilet.
  4. Move the collection container under your urine stream.
  5. Collect at least an ounce or two of urine into the container, which should have markings to indicate the amounts.
  6. Finish urinating into the toilet.
  7. Return the sample container as instructed by your health care provider.

Your health care provider may request that you collect all your urine during a 24-hour period. For this test, your health care provider or laboratory will give you a container and specific instructions on how to collect your samples at home. Be sure to follow all instructions carefully. This 24-hour urine sample test is used because the amounts of substances in urine, including amylase, can vary throughout the day. So collecting several samples in a day may give a more accurate picture of your urine content.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don't need any special preparations for an amylase blood or urine test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood or urine test. During 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 results show an abnormal level of amylase in your blood or urine, it may mean you have a disorder of the pancreas or other medical condition.

High levels of amylase may indicate:

  • Acute pancreatitis, a sudden and severe inflammation of the pancreas. When treated promptly, it usually gets better within a few days.
  • A blockage in the pancreas
  • Pancreatic cancer

Low levels of amylase can indicate:

  • Chronic pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that gets worse over time and can lead to permanent damage. Chronic pancreatitis is most often caused by heavy alcohol use.
  • Liver disease
  • Cystic fibrosis

Be sure to tell your health care provider about any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you are taking, as they can affect your results. To learn more about your results, talk to your health care provider.

Is there anything else I need to know about an amylase test?

If your health care provider suspects you have pancreatitis, he or she may order a lipase blood test, along with an amylase blood test. Lipase is another enzyme produced by the pancreas. Lipase tests are considered to be more accurate for detecting pancreatitis, especially in pancreatitis related to alcohol abuse.

References

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