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Protein Total & Albumin

Also known as: Total protein Or Albumin/Globulin ratio test

What is the protein total, and albumin test?

The protein, total, and albumin test checks the total amount of proteins present in our blood. The functions of almost every part of our body are dependent on proteins.

The most important proteins found in our blood are Albumin, Globulins, and Fibrinogen, out of which albumin is the most abundant and predominant. Globulins may be alpha-globulin, beta-globulin, and gamma-globulin.

The liver forms albumin, and one of its main functions is to retain the fluid in the blood and not let it diffuse into the tissues by maintaining the osmotic pressure of blood. Other important functions of albumin include the transportation of various substances like fatty acids, ions, hormones, medicines, and bilirubin.

Globulins are either formed by the liver or by your immune system. They function for the body's defense and for moving nutrients in the blood.

What is this test used for? 

The total protein and albumin test determines the amount of albumin and globulins in the blood. It also determines the Albumin/Globulin Ratio, which helps diagnose an underlying medical condition. It is included in the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel test. It is often ordered when you have a risk of anemia, edema, kidney or liver disease, which can be caused by too little or too much of these blood proteins.

Why and when do you need a total, protein and albumin test?

Total protein levels test is often included in routine tests, but you can get it done if you have symptoms like: 

  • Sudden weight loss 
  • Edema (swelling due to excessive buildup of fluid) 
  • Jaundice (which is often indicated by the yellow coloration of skin and eyes) 
  • Fatigue 
  • Blood in the urine, or 
  • Any symptom of liver or kidney disease

It can also be done if you have previously suffered from a liver or kidney-related underlying condition.

What kind of sample is required?

For this test, the laboratory needs a blood sample. For that, a healthcare professional will first find a vein on either your arm or the back of your hand and wipe the area with antiseptic. They will place a fine needle and gently puncture your vein drawing out blood from it, which will be collected in a test tube attached with the needle. Once the tube is filled, the needle will be pulled out gently, and pressure will be applied so the bleeding stops.

Do you need to prepare for the test?

This test does not require any special preparations. Still, suppose you take any medications or dietary supplements before the test. In that case, you should ask a healthcare professional to ensure that they do not alter the levels of blood proteins. Drink plenty of water before the test, as dehydration causes high albumin levels in the sample.

Are there any risks to this test?

There is little to no risk for a blood test. You may have a little bleeding and a bruise, but that should be fine in some time. In some rare cases, you may have excessive bleeding, blood trapped under your skin, aka a hematoma, or fainting. Also, if you don't keep the area hygienic, there is a chance of infection. 

What does the test result mean?

  • The normal total protein levels are 6g/dL to 8.3g/dL.
  • The normal albumin levels are 3.5g/dL to 5g/dL.
  • The normal levels of globulins are 2.5g/dL to 3.5g/dL.
  • The normal Albumin/Globulin ratio is between 1.1 and 2.5.

If your total protein levels are high, they may indicate some infections in your body, which are being defended by the immune system, or your body is dehydrated, or they may also be raised due to a pregnancy.

Abnormally low protein levels may be due to any condition that is affecting your liver or kidneys. It may also be due to a lack of ability of your gastrointestinal tract to absorb nutrients from the food or due to malnutrition. Severe internal bleeding can also cause low protein levels. If albumin levels are low, the condition is hypoalbuminemia which causes increased permeability of the blood vessels. If globulins are low, the patient will lack immunoglobulins, which may compromise their immunity.

The Albumin/Globulin ratio changes with fluctuating levels of albumin and globulins and can indicate an underlying illness. It can be changed during acute inflammation and infection or during chronic inflammatory conditions. 

Recent research has found links between low Albumin/Globulin ratio and chronic kidney illness and between low A/G ratio and worst health conditions in patients with cancer. Also, people with immune disorders have their A/G ratio disturbed, identifying the severity of gastrointestinal tract or liver conditions.

More research is going on to find out why the A/G ratio change affects these diseases.

The description of your results must be evaluated by your doctor, who knows your history and symptoms and will come up with the best diagnosis. If your protein levels are abnormal, your doctor may order a few follow-up tests.
Related Tests: Serum protein electrophoresis, Urine samples also check proteins, Albumin blood test.

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