What is an albumin blood test?
An albumin blood test measures the amount of albumin in your blood. Albumin is a protein made by your liver. Albumin helps keep fluid in your bloodstream so it doesn’t leak into other tissues. It is also carries various substances throughout your body, including hormones, vitamins, and enzymes. Low albumin levels can indicate a problem with your liver or kidneys.
Other names: ALB
What is it used for?
An albumin blood test is a type of liver function test. Liver function tests are blood tests that measure different enzymes and proteins in the liver, including albumin. An albumin test may also be part of a comprehensive metabolic panel, a test that measures several substances in your blood. These substances include electrolytes, glucose, and proteins such as albumin.
Why do I need an albumin blood test?
Your health care provider may have ordered liver function tests or a comprehensive metabolic panel, which include tests for albumin, as part your regular checkup. You may also need this test if you have symptoms of liver or kidney disease.
Symptoms of liver disease include:
- Jaundice, a condition that causes your skin and eyes to turn yellow
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Dark-colored urine
- Pale-colored stool
Symptoms of kidney disease include:
- Swelling around the abdomen, thighs, or face
- More frequent urination, especially at night
- Foamy, bloody, or coffee-colored urine
- Itchy skin
What happens during an albumin 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 to test for albumin in blood. If your health care provider has 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?
If your albumin levels are lower than normal, it may indicate one of the following conditions:
- Liver disease, including cirrhosis
- Kidney disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Thyroid disease
Higher than normal levels of albumin may indicate dehydration or severe diarrhea.
If your albumin levels are not in the normal range, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a medical condition needing treatment. Certain drugs, including steroids, insulin, and hormones, can raise albumin levels. Other drugs, including birth control pills, can lower your albumin levels.