Looking for Liver Problems?
My blood tests came back with low albumin levels. What is albumin, and how does it affect my health?
It is worrisome to see low levels of albumin in blood test results. Albumin is a protein that's produced in the liver and circulates in the blood. It is responsible for maintaining proper pressure between the various fluids in your bloodstream and the surrounding tissues. And it helps transport fatty acids, hormones, and medications through the bloodstream. Often, low levels in the blood indicate liver damage -- severe hepatitis, cirrhosis, or some other type of injury that can affect your liver's ability to produce the protein. Your doctor should continue monitoring your serum albumin levels. Sometimes, a dip can happen when you aren't getting enough protein in your diet.
If you haven't already done so, you may want to ask your doctor to test your urine for the presence of albumin and see if it's going there. Albumin in the urine usually signals kidney disease, often a serious condition that can develop slowly -- it may be the first warning of kidney damage.
One Swedish study, published in 1996 in the American Journal of Hypertension, followed 120 men for ten years, and found that the men who developed heart disease had higher levels of albumin in their urine at the beginning of the study. Which means high urinary albumin levels may be a better predictor of heart disease than either elevated cholesterol or blood pressure. Other studies have also shown that excretion of protein in the urine is the best indication of kidney disease in people with noninsulin-dependent diabetes (who are at higher than normal risk for kidney trouble). Sometimes, a urinalysis shows abnormal amounts of albumin for other reasons, including very strenuous exercise, exposure to cold, or as a result of a fever. If this happens, the test will probably be repeated to make sure your albumin levels have returned to a normal range. Only persistently high levels of albumin in urine require further medical investigation.