Talk about low albumin when blood tests show a concentration of less than 3.5 grams per decilitre.
Albumin is a protein produced by liver cells and released into the bloodstream. It represents 60% of the total proteins that are dissolved in the blood serum.
Its lowering could be the indicator of health problems, for this reason it must be kept under control. Its deficiency, in fact, can cause an accumulation in the spaces between the cells and the formation of edema. In some serious cases, the accumulation of water mainly affects the abdomen, which swells disproportionately, compromising the diaphragm and internal organs.
Even high albumin can be the indicator of some body disorders. Let’s find out what it means to have low albumin and when to worry.
What is albumin and what does it mean
Albumin is a protein produced by liver cells, with several important functions in the body.
For example, it is important as a transport material or in the distribution of liquids into and out of cells.
This protein serves to buffer the pH value and as a readily available source of energy.
Albumin is an important transport substance in the blood; this applies both to the body’s own substances and to substances that are supplied to the body from the outside. Among other things, albumin binds and transports:
- vitamin D;
- fatty acids;
- medications such as blood thinners, immunosuppressants, and antibiotics.
Now let’s see what low blood albumin consists of.
Low blood albumin (hypoalbuminemia)
Albumin deficiency is not a disease, so it is improper to talk about symptoms. However, there are signs that accompany this disorder and that could be the indicator of the presence of an underlying disease.
The first sign that occurs when i albumin levels in the body they are quite low, it is the fluid retention. Other conditions can also be added to these signs, such as i cramps e decreased muscle strength and appetite.
Blood albumin values
Here is a table summarizing data on serum albumin levels by age:
|Age||Reference Range (mg/dL)|
|Up to 4 days||2800 – 4400|
|5 years to 13 years||3800 – 5400|
|14 to 17 years old||3200 – 4500|
|From 18 years old||3500 – 5200|
These are only approximate reference values and that the results may vary according to the methods of analysis used by the laboratory.
Symptoms and causes of low blood albumin
The lack of albumin in the body causes a drop in colloidal osmotic pressure within the blood plasma. Consequentially, water cannot be held in physiological quantities in the vascular system. This leads to a transition in the interstitium (space between cells). This in turn leads to the formation of edema.
Albumin is the protein most commonly found in the human body. It also ensures the transport of drugs and hormones. Protein deficiency therefore affects their effect.
Other symptoms of protein deficiency are low blood pressure, pleural effusion, and ascites (water belly).
A large amount of fluid builds up between the organs in the abdominal cavity. A pleural effusion, on the other hand, causes water to accumulate in the lungs.
If you have a watery stomach, there is a risk of intestinal bacteria entering the abdominal cavity, which in turn can lead to a dangerous infection.
Not infrequently, the lack of albumin leads to an increase in the concentration of fatty acids, hormones and bilirubin in the blood.
The causes of low albumin can be different. Some are linked to diseases, while others are not linked to illnesses in particular.
- Autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases – In some cases certain autoimmune diseases and those characterized by chronic inflammation can cause a lowering of albumin levels. These are diseases related to intestinal malabsorption, such as Chron’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and arthropathic psoriasis can be other causes.
- Liver diseases – Other diseases that affect albumin levels are those related to the liver, such as cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis. Indeed, albumin is produced by the cells of the liver parenchyma.
- Kidney diseases – Low albumin can also be caused by some kidney diseases that determine the alteration of the membranes of the kidney glomeruli. One of these pathologies is, for example, nephrotic syndrome.
- Nutritional deficiencies – Often in third world countries the decrease in albumin is connected to the so-called syndrome called kwashiorkor. It is a disease determined by a low concentration of blood serum proteins, due to an insufficient intake of proteins due to nutritional deficiencies.
- Pregnancy – With pregnancy there can be hormonal changes and, as a consequence, blood vessels can become more permeable. This can reduce kidney function and lead to a drop in albumin.
Other causes of low albumin include the following:
- excessively low-calorie diet;
- excessive production of cortisol by the adrenals;
- increased body temperature;
- very extensive burns;
- severe bleeding;
- birth control pill.
Low albumin in urine
Albumin is one of the first proteins to be detected in urine in the presence of disease or kidney damage.
People with the chronic presence of small measurable amounts of albumin in urine have an increased risk of developing kidney dysfunction or cardiovascular disease.
To be healthy, albumin in urine must be absent.
Low albumin: when to worry and how to act
Low albumin is referred to as hypoalbuminemia and it is a pathological condition that causes generalized edema. Hypoalbuminemia occurs when the level is below 35 g per liter and the advice is to consult your doctor.
To remedy an albumin deficiency, it is advisable to identify the underlying cause of the problem. If it is a pathology, it is necessary to evaluate the appropriate strategies for the resolution of the disorder.
Sometimes it may be necessary to resort to real ones infusions intravenous human albumin, particularly when i albumin values are far below physiological levels.
However, this hypothesis should be carefully evaluated, because there are contraindicationssuch as the high cost of the treatment, which is often not accompanied by very evident benefits and which could be obtained with other therapies, such as the infusion of solutions of colloids.
In case of low albumin it is important to consume foods that can help drain liquids and at the same time allow an increase in plasma protein values. One of the foods which are useful in these cases is certainly theegg, a real precious source of albumin. The latter is also present in milk.
The water retention associated with albumin deficiency can be combated by eating vegetables and fruit, such as fennel, watermelon, pineapple and asparagus. In all cases, however, it is essential to consult your trusted doctor, to find out what precise changes need to be made to the skin diet daily, based on recorded protein values.
There are special ones supplementsbut they are usually used in hospitals and it is therefore not possible to use them independently.