Proteins circulate throughout your blood to help your body maintain fluid balance. Albumin is a type of protein the liver makes. It’s one of the most abundant proteins in your blood.
You need a proper balance of albumin to keep fluid from leaking out of blood vessels. Albumin gives your body the proteins it needs to keep growing and repairing tissue. It also carries vital nutrients and hormones.
A serum albumin test is a simple blood test that measures the amount of albumin in your blood. Having surgery, getting burned, or having an open wound raises your chances of having a low albumin level.
If none of those apply to you and you have an abnormal serum albumin level, it may be a sign that your liver or kidneys aren’t working correctly. It could also mean that you have a nutritional deficiency.
Your doctor will interpret what your albumin levels mean for your health.
Your liver takes proteins from the foods you eat and turns them into new proteins that circulate to various organs and tissues in your body. A serum albumin test can tell your doctor how well your liver is working. It’s often one of the tests in a liver panel. In addition to albumin, a liver panel tests your blood for creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, and prealbumin.
If your doctor suspects that you have a condition that affects your liver function, such as liver disease, you’ll likely need to give a small blood sample for an albumin test. Symptoms associated with liver disease include:
- jaundice, which is yellow skin and eyes
- unexpected weight loss
- swelling around your eyes, stomach, or legs
Your doctor can also use a serum albumin test to check up on certain medical conditions you have, including chronic pancreatitis or kidney disease. The results of the test can indicate whether such conditions are improving or getting worse.
Certain medications such as insulin, anabolic steroids, and growth hormones may affect the results of the test. Tell your doctor if you’re taking medications. Your doctor may tell you to change the dosage of your medication or stop taking your medication before the test.
Don’t make any changes to your medication or dosage unless your doctor instructs you to do so.
Other than that, you don’t need to take any extra steps before your serum albumin test.
A lab technician draws a small sample of blood from your arm to use for the serum albumin test.
First, they use an alcohol swab or antiseptic wipe to clean your skin. Then they tie a band around your upper arm to make your veins swell with blood. This helps them find a vein more easily.
Once they find a vein, the technician inserts a needle that’s attached to a vial and draws blood. They may fill one or more vials.
They’ll send your blood sample to a laboratory for analysis.
A serum albumin test is often part of a series of tests that check liver and kidney function. Your doctor will likely look at all your test results to determine what’s causing your symptoms and to make an accurate diagnosis.
The typical value for serum albumin in blood is 3.4 to 5.4 grams per deciliter. Low albumin levels can indicate a number of health conditions, including:
- liver disease
- nephritic syndrome or nephrotic syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- celiac disease
If your doctor believes your low serum albumin levels are due to liver disease, they may order more tests to determine the specific type of liver disease. Types of liver disease include hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular necrosis.
High serum albumin levels could mean that you’re dehydrated or eat a diet rich in protein. However, a serum albumin test usually isn’t necessary to diagnose dehydration.
It’s important to note that results can vary depending on the lab that analyzed your blood sample. Some labs use unique measurements or test different samples. Meet with your doctor to discuss your test results in more detail.
A serum albumin test doesn’t require a large sample of blood, so it’s considered a low-risk procedure. However, if it’s difficult for your technician to find a vein, you may have some discomfort and bruising during or after giving a blood sample.
You should always tell your doctor if you have a medical condition that may increase your risk of excessive bleeding. Let them know if you’re taking certain medications, such as blood thinners, that may cause you to bleed more than expected during the procedure.
Side effects associated with the serum albumin test include:
- bleeding or bruising where the needle is inserted
- fainting at the sight of blood
- accumulation of blood under your skin
- infection at the puncture site
Call your doctor if you notice any unexpected side effects.