Albumin (ALB)

The Albumin (ALB) test contains 1 test with 1 biomarker.

Brief Description: The Albumin test is a common clinical laboratory procedure designed to measure the concentration of albumin, a crucial protein produced by the liver, in a patient's blood. Albumin serves various functions in the body, including maintaining oncotic pressure within blood vessels, transporting hormones, enzymes, and medications, and regulating fluid balance between blood and tissues.

Also Known As: ALB Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When is an Albumin test ordered?

A panel of tests is commonly ordered as part of a health check, including an albumin test.

If a person exhibits any of the following signs of a liver problem, an albumin test may be requested along with other tests:

  • skin or eyes turning yellow
  • weakness, exhaustion
  • Unaccounted-for weight loss
  • reduced appetite
  • edema and/or pain in the abdomen
  • Dark feces and pale urine
  • Itching

When someone exhibits the following nephrotic syndrome symptoms, for example:

  • Swelling or puffiness, especially in the face, wrists, abdomen, thighs, or ankles, or around the eyes
  • Foamy, bloody, or coffee-colored urine
  • a reduction in the urine's volume
  • problems urinating, such as a burning sensation or an unusual discharge, or a change in frequency, particularly at night
  • discomfort in the middle of the back, below the ribs, and next to the kidneys
  • elevated blood pressure

An albumin test may also be requested by a medical professional to assess or track a patient's nutritional condition. A reduction in albumin, however, needs to be carefully examined because, in addition to starvation, albumin concentrations respond to a number of other diseases.

What does an Albumin blood test check for?

The liver produces a protein called albumin. It has numerous roles and makes up roughly 60% of the blood's overall protein content. The amount of albumin in the blood is determined by this test.

Albumin nourishes tissues, transports hormones, vitamins, medicines, and chemicals like calcium throughout the body, and prevents fluid from seeping out of blood vessels. When factors affect the liver's ability to produce albumin, increase protein breakdown, increase protein loss through the kidneys, and/or increase plasma volume, albumin levels may decline to a greater or lower extent.

Low blood albumin can result from two key factors, including:

  • Severe liver disease: Since the liver produces albumin, its level may drop with loss of liver function; however, this is usually only the case in cases of severe liver illness.
  • Kidney disease: One of the kidneys' numerous jobs is to preserve plasma proteins like albumin so that they don't pass through the urine production process with other waste materials. High levels of albumin are found in the blood, and when the kidneys are working well, very little albumin is excreted in the urine. However, the ability to preserve albumin and other proteins starts to deteriorate if a person's kidneys become harmed or ill. Chronic disorders like diabetes and hypertension are prone to this. Extremely large amounts of albumin are lost through the kidneys in nephrotic syndrome.

Lab tests often ordered with an Albumin test:

When an Albumin test is ordered, it's often part of a broader evaluation of organ function and nutritional status. Here are some tests commonly ordered alongside it:

  1. Total Protein:

    • Purpose: To measure the total amount of protein in the blood, including albumin and globulins.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To provide a broader context for the albumin level and to assess for conditions that affect protein levels, such as liver disease or malnutrition.
  2. Liver Function Test:

    • Purpose: To assess liver health by measuring enzymes and proteins related to liver function, including alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and bilirubin.
    • Why Is It Ordered: Since albumin is produced by the liver, these tests can help diagnose and monitor liver diseases.
  3. Kidney Function Test:

    • Purpose: To evaluate kidney function.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess whether reduced albumin levels might be due to kidney disease, as the kidneys are responsible for maintaining protein balance.
  4. Complete Blood Count (CBC):

    • Purpose: To evaluate overall blood health.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To check for signs of anemia or infection, which can be associated with or impact liver and kidney disease.
  5. Prealbumin:

    • Purpose: To measure the level of prealbumin (transthyretin), another protein produced by the liver.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess nutritional status, as prealbumin is a more sensitive marker of protein intake and nutritional changes than albumin.
  6. Serum Electrolytes:

    • Purpose: To measure key electrolytes in the blood.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To evaluate fluid and electrolyte balance, which can be affected by liver and kidney disease.
  7. Urine Albumin (Microalbumin) and Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio:

    • Purpose: To detect small amounts of albumin in the urine.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess for early signs of kidney damage, particularly in people with diabetes or hypertension.
  8. Prothrombin Time (PT) and International Normalized Ratio (INR):

    • Purpose: To measure blood clotting time.
    • Why Is It Ordered: To assess liver function, as the liver produces clotting factors, and prolonged clotting time can indicate liver dysfunction.

These tests, when ordered alongside an Albumin test, provide a comprehensive evaluation of liver and kidney function, nutritional status, and overall health. They are crucial for diagnosing and managing conditions that affect albumin levels, such as liver disease, kidney disease, and malnutrition. The specific combination of tests will depend on the individual’s symptoms, clinical presentation, and medical history.

Conditions where an Albumin test is recommended:

Several medical conditions and scenarios warrant an Albumin test, including:

  1. Liver Disease: Albumin levels are often diminished in liver diseases such as cirrhosis, hepatitis, and other liver impairments.

  2. Kidney Disease: Kidney damage can lead to the loss of albumin in the urine, resulting in lower blood albumin levels.

  3. Malnutrition: A decrease in albumin levels can indicate malnutrition or protein deficiency.

  4. Inflammatory Disorders: Chronic inflammatory conditions can cause a drop in albumin levels due to increased protein loss.

How does my health care provider use an Albumin test?

An albumin test is widely used to assess a person's general health state since it is typically included in the panels of tests run as part of a health check, such as a thorough metabolic panel.

Albumin may also be used in a variety of situations to aid in the diagnosis of disease, to track changes in health status due to therapy or disease progression, and as a screen that may suggest the need for other types of testing because it can be low in a range of diseases and disorders.

The liver produces albumin, a protein that nourishes cells, prevents fluid from seeping out of blood vessels, carries hormones, vitamins, medications, and other chemicals like calcium throughout the body.

A creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, or renal panel may be ordered in addition to an albumin test to assess liver function or in conjunction with one of these tests to assess kidney function. Additionally, albumin can be requested to assess a person's nutritional status.

What do my Albumin test results mean?

The results of an albumin test are assessed in conjunction with those from other tests carried out concurrently, such as those in a comprehensive metabolic panel or during follow-up.

A low albumin level could be a red flag and a sign that more research may be necessary. A low albumin level could indicate a short-term issue that will go away on its own or it could indicate an acute or chronic disease that calls for medical attention.

When conditions affect albumin production, increase protein breakdown, increase protein loss, and/or expand plasma volume, albumin levels may decline to a greater or lower extent. Additional testing may be carried out to look into a low result, depending on the patient's medical history, signs and symptoms, and physical examination.

Low albumin levels may signal liver illness. To pinpoint precisely which sort of liver illness may be present, liver enzyme tests or a liver panel may be prescribed. However, until the disease has progressed to an advanced degree, a person with liver disease may have normal or nearly normal albumin levels. For instance, albumin is frequently low in cirrhotic individuals while albumin is typically normal in most chronic liver illnesses that have not progressed to cirrhosis.

Low albumin levels can be a sign of illnesses where the kidneys are unable to stop albumin from leaking into the urine and being lost. In this situation, tests for creatinine, BUN, or a renal panel may be requested, along with measurements of the albumin or protein levels in the urine.

Inflammation, shock, and starvation are among conditions that can cause low albumin levels. They may exhibit symptoms of diseases like Crohn's disease or celiac disease, which affect how well the body absorbs and digests protein, as well as circumstances where significant amounts of protein are wasted from the intestines.

A low albumin level can also occur in a number of different illnesses, including:

  • Infections
  • Burns
  • Surgery
  • chronic disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • the cancer syndrome
  • Plasma volume enlargement brought on by congestive heart failure and occasionally pregnancy
  • Dehydration can cause high albumin levels, albeit this condition is not routinely tracked or detected by the test.

Most Common Questions About the Albumin test:

Purpose and Clinical Significance

What is the primary objective of the Albumin test?

The Albumin test measures the amount of albumin in the blood. Albumin is a protein made by the liver, and it plays a vital role in maintaining oncotic pressure in the blood vessels, transporting various substances, and aiding in general body functions.

Why is the Albumin test ordered?

The Albumin test is ordered to help assess liver function, nutritional status, and to diagnose liver diseases or kidney diseases. Decreased levels might suggest liver dysfunction or conditions causing malnutrition, while elevated levels are rare and may indicate dehydration.

Interpretation of Results

What does a low result in the Albumin test signify?

Low albumin levels, known as hypoalbuminemia, can be indicative of several conditions including liver disease (like cirrhosis or hepatitis), inflammation, malnutrition, nephrotic syndrome (a kidney disorder), or other systemic diseases.

How does the Albumin test differ from the serum protein electrophoresis test?

While the Albumin test specifically measures the amount of albumin in the blood, serum protein electrophoresis evaluates multiple proteins in the blood, including albumin, to diagnose conditions like multiple myeloma, and to identify protein imbalances in the body.

Disease and Complications

Is there a connection between the Albumin test results and edema?

Yes, low albumin levels can lead to decreased oncotic pressure in the blood vessels, causing fluid to leak out into the tissues, resulting in edema or swelling. This is common in conditions like cirrhosis or nephrotic syndrome.

How does the Albumin test relate to ascites?

Ascites refers to the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. One of the causes of ascites is liver cirrhosis, which can lead to decreased production of albumin. Reduced albumin levels can disrupt the balance of fluids, leading to fluid leakage into the abdominal space.

Relation with Other Tests

How does the Albumin test fit into the assessment of liver function?

The Albumin test is one of several tests used to assess liver function. Other tests, such as ALT, AST, ALP, and bilirubin, offer insights into liver injury or bile flow obstruction. A comprehensive liver function test (LFT) panel usually includes albumin to evaluate the synthetic function of the liver.

Why might one need an Albumin test alongside a creatinine test?

Both tests can help evaluate kidney function. While albumin assesses protein leakage from the kidneys (a sign of kidney damage), creatinine measures waste product clearance. The Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio (ACR) can be derived using both values to assess kidney damage, especially in diabetic individuals.

It's essential to consider that while the Albumin test offers valuable insights into liver and kidney functions, its interpretation should be done in the broader clinical context, with considerations to patient history, clinical symptoms, and other relevant test results.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

The following is a list of what is included in the item above. Click the test(s) below to view what biomarkers are measured along with an explanation of what the biomarker is measuring.

Also known as: ALB, Albumin ALB

Albumin

Albumin is a protein made by the liver. A serum albumin test measures the amount of this protein in the clear liquid portion of the blood.
*Process times are an estimate and are not guaranteed. The lab may need additional time due to weather, holidays, confirmation/repeat testing, or equipment maintenance.

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