Albumin is a water soluble protein, and it is present in blood plasma in abundance. It is vitally important to health, as it plays an important role in repair and growth of tissues and transportation of essential fatty acids (fat) from adipose tissue to muscle tissue. It also promotes transportation of hormones, drugs and other substances through blood. It buffers the blood pH, regulates osmosis, and it binds to calcium ions. Albumin is produced in the liver and a blood test is ordered to check the albumin levels in blood.
Low Blood Albumin
Low blood albumin level, also known as hypoalbuminemia, indicates that kidneys are unable to stop the leakage of albumin into the urine and so the protein is being lost through urine. Kidneys filter the blood but being a protein, albumin should not be found in the urine. A healthy person's urine contains negligible ( about 150 mg/L) albumin. The doctor may order a urine test to measure albumin in urine. If albumin is present in high quantity in urine, then it can be concluded that kidney disorder, or urinary tract infection, is the low albumin cause and it needs to be treated properly.
Other causes of low albumin count include inflammation due to lupus and arthritis, shock, and malnutrition. Poor diet, bad eating habits can lead to hypoalbuminemia. Sometimes, in spite of a healthy diet, low levels of albumin are detected. This may happen if the body is not able to absorb and/or digest protein from the ingested food properly. For example, in Celiac disease or Crohn's disease, intestines are not able to absorb protein.
Even heart diseases like congestive heart failure or pericarditis (Inflammation of the pericardium); stomach problems like inflammatory bowel disease, or lymphoma; serious diseases like sarcoma or amyloidosis may lead to low albumin in blood. Infections like tuberculosis and use of certain medicines (leading to side effects) are also responsible for low albumin levels.
Aging may result in slightly lower albumin level in the elderly. Aging slows down the liver function in the elderly leading to low blood albumin. Liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver dysfunction due to any other cause can lower blood albumin levels. Protein deficiencies, liver diseases can cause low blood albumin whereas dehydration is the main cause of high albumin in blood.
Symptoms of liver disorder include yellowish skin, whites of the eyes turning yellow (jaundice), weight loss and fatigue. Symptoms of kidney disorders include swelling (water retention) in legs, or all over the body. Loss of appetite, weight loss, skin disorders, excessive tiredness can be experienced. Muscle weakness, fatigue and cramps indicate low blood albumin. Liver problems may result in ascites (abdomen swollen with fluid). Severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea/constipation despite use of laxatives, chest pain, breathing difficulty, confusion, palpitations or rapid heartbeat, need immediate medical attention.
Normal Blood Albumin
The normal levels of albumin in healthy individuals lie between 3.6 - 5.0 grams per deciliter (g/dL). Having a blood albumin level of 4 g/dL means that one liter of your blood contains about 40 grams of albumin. The elderly are more likely to suffer from hypoalbuminemia.
Treatment for low albumin levels in blood depends upon the cause. Doctors with the help of various tests can detect the cause of hypoalbuminemia and can prescribe medications accordingly. You should inform your doctor about your routine medications to check whether any medicine is responsible for depleted levels of albumin in blood. It is essential to avoid smoking and alcohol for fast recovery. One should follow the instructions of the doctor religiously.