Pancreas, one of the important digestive system organs, helps in the process of digestion in various ways. The human pancreatic lipase (HPL) helps break down dietary fats. It converts triglycerides into monoglycerides and free fatty acids. HPL is one of the main lipases of the human digestive system. Hepatic lipase (HL), endothelial lipase, and lipoprotein lipase are some other important lipases in the human body.
Lipase normal range for reference may vary from lab to lab and from country to country. Usually, lipase levels within "7 to 58 units/L" are considered as normal. But according to country specifications, some laboratories report a reading of "0 to 160 units/L" as "within the normal range for lipase". So you should not interpret the test results, let the physician do it for you. Lipase normal value may vary slightly from person to person. About 8 hour fasting (usually overnight) is required before undergoing a blood test for lipase. The test helps assess and monitor acute pancreatitis (infection and inflammation of pancreas), chronic pancreatitis, and other disorders of the pancreas. Lipase test may also be ordered to help diagnose and monitor cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease.
Along with lipase, pancreas releases other important enzymes like amylase. Many times, amylase levels are also checked while checking lipase levels. Amylase is secreted by other glands too, for example, salivary glands. In case of acute pancreatitis, both amylase and lipase levels rise significantly. Measuring pancreatic lipase is the best way of detecting pancreas problems. If there are evidences of dysfunction of pancreas, such as fever, loss of appetite, nausea, severe abdominal or back pain, then a lipase test is usually ordered. The test may be performed periodically to monitor the effectiveness of the treatment for pancreatitis.
Lipase level within the normal range helps maintain your digestive health. In acute pancreatitis, the levels are often found to be 5 to 10 times higher than the upper limit of the normal value. They rise within one to two days of an acute pancreatic attack and remain elevated for about a week. Consumption of certain medicines (like codeine, indomethacin, and morphine) can raise the lipase levels. The condition can be sometimes asymptomatic. Some people may experience abdominal pain, sweating, nausea, vomiting, weakness, etc. Obstruction in the pancreatic duct, pancreatic cancer, and other pancreatic diseases may result in elevated lipase levels. Higher than normal levels of lipase also indicate viral gastroenteritis, stomach ulcer or blockage. Elevated lipase levels in pancreatitis can be brought back to normal with the help of drug therapy and by following a pancreatitis diet plan.
Decreased levels of lipase usually indicate that the person's lipase-producing cells from the pancreas are permanently damaged. This can be experienced by people who have chronic diseases that can seriously affect the pancreas, for example, cystic fibrosis (a congenital disease in which the lungs, intestines and pancreas of the person become clogged with thick mucus), celiac disease or Crohn's disease. Scarcity of lipase can result in indigestion. Those who often suffer from indigestion should get their lipase levels checked. In case of lipase deficiency, lipase supplements are recommended.
Various enzymes help speed up the biochemical reactions in the body. Lipase within the normal range promotes easy digestion of fat. Prompt diagnosis of pancreatitis is essential because pancreas may fail to produce enough insulin due to pancreatitis, which in turn may result in severe fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and serious health complications.
This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.