Proteins circulate throughout your blood to help your body maintain fluid balance. Albumin is a type of protein the liver produces. 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 also carries vital nutrients and hormones, and provides your body with the proteins it needs to maintain growth and repair tissue.
A serum albumin test measures the amount of albumin in the blood. Abnormal serum albumin levels may indicate that your kidneys or liver isn’t working correctly. Your doctor can determine your albumin levels with a simple blood test and interpret what they 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 used as part of a test known as a liver panel, which tests your blood for creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, and prealbumin.
Your doctor will likely order an albumin test if they suspect you have a condition that affects your liver function, such as liver disease. Symptoms associated with liver disease include:
- jaundice, or yellow skin
- unexpected weight loss
- swelling around the eyes, stomach, or legs
The serum albumin test can also determine the status of certain medical conditions, including chronic pancreatitis or kidney disease. The results of the test can indicate whether such conditions are improving or advancing.
You don’t need to take any extra steps before your serum albumin test. However, tell your doctor if you’re taking medications such as insulin, anabolic steroids, and growth hormones. These medications may affect the results of the test. 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.
A serum albumin test requires the collection of a sample of blood. The blood is usually drawn from a vein in your arm.
A lab technician will use an alcohol swab or antiseptic wipe to clean your skin. Then they’ll tie a band around your upper arm, which will make your veins swell with blood. This helps them find a vein more easily.
Once they find a vein, the technician will insert a needle and draw blood. They may collect a blood sample in one or more vials, depending on how big of a sample is needed.
Then they’ll send the sample to a laboratory for analysis.
A serum albumin test is often one part in a series of tests that check liver and kidney function. Your doctor will likely look at your entire test results to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and make an accurate diagnosis.
The typical value for serum albumin in blood is 3.4 to 5.4 g/dL. Low albumin levels can indicate a number of health conditions, including:
If your doctor believes your low serum albumin levels are due to liver disease, they may order additional tests to determine the specific type of liver disease. Types of liver disease include hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular necrosis.
Dehydration can lead to high serum albumin levels. 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 the blood technician to find a vein, you may experience some discomfort and bruising.
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 the skin
- infection at the puncture site
Call your doctor if you experience any unexpected side effects.