The ALB blood test is used to determine current albumin levels. This is a fairly common blood test that may be ordered on its own or as part of a comprehensive metabolic panel. Many people have this test ordered for them at least once per year as part of their annual physical checkup.
Certain diseases, syndromes, and disorders can cause albumin levels to fluctuate, so this test can be useful in determining if a treatment plan needs to be developed. It is also used by medical providers as a screening tool to determine if additional testing may be needed to discover a specific diagnosis.
Outside of the annual physical, the ALB blood test is most commonly ordered to determine the health status of a patient’s liver. In this circumstance, it will often be ordered with a BUN and creatinine blood test to evaluate kidney health and overall nutritional health as well.
When To Ask About the ALB Blood Test
Whenever there are signs and symptoms that suggest the health of a patient’s liver is at risk, the ALB blood test will be considered. For patients, this means any yellowing of their skin or eyes, weight loss, chronic fatigue, and swelling in the abdomen, eyes, and legs should be evaluated. These symptoms may be accompanied by bowel movement changes and a darkening of the urine.
Malnutrition is not generally a cause for concern in the developed world, but the ALB blood test can help to determine if a person’s eating habits could be decreasing their albumin levels. Based on the test result, electrolyte testing may be ordered as a follow-up so that adjustments to an individual eating plan can be made.
What Do the ALB Blood Test Results Mean?
Test results will be reported as being low, normal, or high. Most people who are given the ALB blood test will have normal results. This generally indicates that no further action in this area of health needs to be taken.
When there are low albumin levels, then this may require further testing to determine the cause. Sometimes albumin levels decrease temporarily because of changing lifestyle choices and eventually correct themselves. No treatment is usually necessary if that is the case.
It is when the low levels of albumin are due to an acute or chronic disease, syndrome, or disorder that a treatment plan needs to be developed. Most low levels of albumin that are chronic can be explained by the presence of liver cirrhosis. Inflammation and shock are also causes of low albumin levels. People who have Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or an inflammatory bowel condition may have low test results.
Dehydration is the most common health issue that creates high albumin levels.
Here’s What You Should Know About the ALB Blood Test
Certain drugs are known to increase the amount of albumin that is found in the blood. People who are taking insulin or are in the middle of a growth hormone therapy will typically have high test results. Androgens and anabolic steroids are also known to cause high ALB blood test results.
Someone who has recently had an IV intended for fluid replacement will have inconclusive results on this test. Although this is typically found in hospital settings, it may also apply to athletes who play contact sports and other specific circumstances where fluids may need to be directly administered.
The ALB blood test is different than the home testing kits that are available to test for albumin. Home kits generally test for albumin that is found in the urine. Although this can provide useful information, the blood test is often necessary to confirm a bothersome health condition should it exist.
People who have chronic liver or kidney health issues are at the highest risk of experiencing an abnormal ALB blood test. Prolonged diarrhea from these issues can actually change the results due to dehydration, however, so in this instance the results provided by the test may be false.
The ALB blood test is useful in a number of different ways. It’s often one of the blood tests that are used to determine a person’s overall health status. If it comes back as being abnormal, then further investigation will take place to determine what kind of treatment plan needs to be developed. Speak to your medical provider about the benefits of having this test added to your annual physical exam so any health issues that may develop in the future can be caught and treated early on.