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Globulin Test

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
  • Itching
  • 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:

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.

References

  1. AIDSinfo [Internet]. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Gamma Globulin; [updated 2017 Feb 2; cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/education-materials/glossary/261/gamma-globulin
  2. American Cancer Society [Internet]. Atlanta: American Cancer Society Inc.; c2017. What is multiple myeloma?; [updated 2016 Jan 19; cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/multiplemyeloma/detailedguide/multiple-myeloma-what-is-multiple-myeloma
  3. American Liver Foundation. [Internet]. New York: American Liver Foundation; c2017. Liver Function Tests; [updated 2016 Jan 25; cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/liverfunctiontests/
  4. Immune Deficiency Foundation [Internet]. Towson (MD): Immune Deficiency Foundation; c2016. Selective IgA Deficiency [cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: http://primaryimmune.org/about-primary-immunodeficiencies/specific-disease-types/selective-iga-deficiency/
  5. Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American Association for Clinical Chemistry; c2001–2017. Total Protein and Albumin/Globulin (A/G) Ratio; [updated 2016; Apr 10; cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/tp/tab/test/
  6. McCudden C, Axel A, Slaets D, Dejoie T, Clemens P, Frans S, Bald J, Plesner T, Jacobs J, van de Donk N, Schecter J, Ahmadi T Sasser, A. Monitoring multiple myeloma patients treated with daratumumab: teasing out monoclonal antibody interference. Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM) [Internet]. 2016 Jun [cited 2017 Feb 2]; 54(6). Available from: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/cclm.2016.54.issue-6/cclm-2015-1031/cclm-2015-1031.xml
  7. 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 Feb 2]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/risks
  8. 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 Feb 2]; [about 5 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bdt/with
  9. O'Connell T, Horita T, Kasravi B. Understanding and Interpreting Serum Protein Electrophoresis. American Family Physician [Internet]. 2005 Jan 1 [cited 2017 Feb 2]; 71(1): 105–112. Available from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0101/p105.html
  10. The Johns Hopkins Lupus Center [Internet]. Johns Hopkins Medicine; c2017. Blood Chemistry Panel [cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.hopkinslupus.org/lupus-tests/screening-laboratory-tests/blood-chemistry-panel/
  11. UF Health: University of Florida Health [Internet]. University of Florida; c2017. Serum globulin electrophoresis; [cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://ufhealth.org/serum-globulin-electrophoresis
  12. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Protein Electrophoresis (Blood); [cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=protein_electrophoresis_serum
  13. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. Rochester (NY): University of Rochester Medical Center; c2017. Health Encyclopedia: Total Protein and A/G Ratio; [cited 2017 Feb 2]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=167&contentid=total_protein_ag_ratio

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.