Human serum albumin is the most abundant protein that is found in human blood plasma. This protein is produced in the liver and comprises around half of the blood serum protein. This protein has a serum half life of around twenty days. This is an important protein as it serves many functions in the body, like it maintains the colloid osmotic pressure, transports thyroid hormones, fatty acids, buffers the blood pH, binds to calcium ions, etc. Hence, it is very important to maintain the albumin levels in the blood.
Levels of Albumin in Blood
The recommended level of albumin in children and in adults is said to be 4.0 g/dl or more. The albumin levels in the elderly may be slightly lower than this because as age progresses, the functioning of the liver slows down. The levels of albumin in urine are practically negligible. This is because the glomerulus structure is such that it does not allow large molecules like proteins to pass through into urine. However, this is not the case when it comes to kidney diseases, like diabetic nephropathy, where there is destruction of the glomerulus. Due to this then, the protein molecules seep through as well. Thus, if albumin is detected in the urine in significant amounts, it is a sign of the presence of a kidney disease. Depending on the amount of albumin that is present in the urine, it is graded as microalbuminuria and albuminuria. This acts as a worthy tool in determining the extent of kidney damage or loss of functioning of the kidneys.
Changes in Levels of Albumin
There are many conditions that can lead to an increase in the levels of albumin, which is known as hyperalbuminemia. These conditions include severe dehydration, congestive heart failure, poor utilization of protein in the body, etc. Sometimes, an excess of glucocorticoids can also lead to high levels of albumin in the blood.
The exact amount of albumin and each type of globulin are measured through a process which is known as serum protein electrophoresis. Ideally, the ratio of albumin to globulin is 1.0 or more. This test is important as it proves to be diagnostic in liver diseases. This is because when there is liver disease, the levels of albumin drop considerably. So, albumin levels and liver disease are very closely associated. Also, there is insufficient oncotic pressure to hold fluid within cells. Due to this change in osmolarity, the fluid moves into the interstitial spaces and causes generalized edema. The collection of fluid in the abdominal cavity, also known ascites, may make it difficult for a person to breathe when in a reclining position. A paracentesis or an abdominal tap is essential to relieve the pressure on the diaphragm. However, to make matters worse, one of the disadvantages of paracentesis is that proteins are lost when the peritoneal fluid is drained out of the body.
There are many other conditions that can also lead to low levels of albumin in the body, which is known as hypoalbuminemia. These include hypothyroidism, malnutrition diseases, kidney shutdown, burns, hormone imbalances, etc. Low levels of albumin decrease the resistance of the body and increase the chances of infection.
It is very important to maintain the levels of albumin in the body because any kind of change in the range of albumin in the body can lead to dire consequences. One can recognize changes in the levels of albumin in the body by checking for the presence of symptoms like excess of edema or any kind of skin changes. If you do spot any such symptoms, then it is best to visit the doctor and get the condition diagnosed and treated at the earliest.