Blood test

Low albumin level in the blood

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Low albumin level in the blood

What is a low albumin level in the blood called?

  • Hypoalbuminemia

What is the normal albumin level in the blood?

If you need to know which are the albumin reference ranges or you require more information about the role of albumin in the blood you can visit: Normal albumin level in the blood

What does a low total albumin level in the blood mean?

Hypoalbuminemia or a low albumin level in the blood is usually related to:

  • Liver diseases (main cause). Albumin is made by the liver. The lower the albumin level was the more serious the liver damage will be (a consequence of cirrhosis or hepatitis for example).
  • Kidney disorders. The kidneys may excrete too much albumin in case of nephrotic syndrome or glomerulonephritis.
  • Malnutrition or malabsorption.

People with a low albumin level for more than three months has 2.5 more possibilities to die in the next 5 years tan people with an albumin level above 4 mg/dl. That is the reason why the hypoalbuminemia must be always studied to establish the possible cause.

Albumin blood values are usually given in g/dl but sometimes you can see these values in mmol/l following the International System of Units (SI). In case your values are in mmol/l you can convert them using this tool:

mmol/L

Hypoalbuminemia or low albumin blood levels mean:

  • Mild hypoalbuminemia (3 – 3.4 g/dl in adults):

    Albumin level in the blood is a bit low. It does not worry for the moment, but it is necessary to monitor it periodically. Take a new blood test in a few months to see if it keeps on low.

    It is interesting to study also transaminases and alkaline phosphatase in the blood (to exclude a liver disease) and urea, BUN or creatinine in the blood (to exclude a kidney disorder).

    In any case, a visit to your doctor is recommended.

  • Moderate hypoalbuminemia (2 - 3 g/dl in adults):

    A moderate hypoalbuminemia requires a detailed study. It is necessary to find the cause of this decrease in albumin level in the blood.

    There are other blood test results than may give a key for the diagnosis:

    • If ALT (alanine aminotransferase) in the blood and alkaline phosphatase in the blood are higher than normal, it may be a sign of a liver disease (cirrhosis, hepatitis, etc.)
    • If urea, BUN or creatinine in the blood are higher than normal, it may be a sign of a kidney disease. If albumin in the urine is also high it reinforces the diagnosis of a kidney problem.
    • If phosphorus (phosphates) in the blood is lower than normal, it may be a sign of an inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Marked hypoalbuminemia (< 2 g/dl in adults):

    Albumin level in the blood is very low. There are usually some evidences in the body such as edemas in feet and ankles (swelling caused by excessive fluids) or ascites (abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen).

    It requires urgent medical attention because an albumin level below 2 g/dl is related to a mortality over 60% in 30 days.

    There is also a very rare genetic disease characterized by a very low albumin level in the blood (< 1mg/dl) called congenital analbuminemia. This rare disease can be present with no symptoms because the body, with an increase in other protein types, compensates the low level of albumin.

Which factors can reduce the total albumin level in the blood?

Some particular health situation or drugs may reduce your albumin level in the blood:

  • Pregnancy
  • Malnutrition
  • Burns
  • Drugs
    • Sex hormones
      • Estrogens

Which diseases can reduce your total albumin level in the blood?

The following diseases can explain an albumin level in the blood lower than normal:

  • Ascites
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Hepatitis
  • Hepatic cirrhosis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Whipple's disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Malabsorption
  • Congenital analbuminaemia
  • Nephritic syndrome
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • HIV Human immunodeficiency virus

What can I do to increase the total albumin level in the blood?

A low albumin level in the blood is usually due to kidney or liver diseases and sometimes with a problem related to the diet.

If the problem is related to the diet, for instance due to a protein deficit, it is advisable to increase the intake of high-protein products such as:

  • Walnuts
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Meat (chicken, turkey)
  • Legumes (chickpeas, lentils)
  • Fish (salmon, trout)

Besides, it is desirable to reduce the alcohol intake.

Where can I find more information about albumin level in the blood?

You can visit our pages about:

Which values are considered a low albumin level in the blood?

The following values are considered to be above the normal range:

IMPORTANT: These levels are expressed in g/dl. They are an example of a healthy man of about 45 years old with no known disease and not taking any medication. The ranges can be different depending on the laboratory or on your personal circumstances.

Albumin
Mild hypoalbuminemia
3.3 g/dL3.2 g/dL3.1 g/dL3 g/dL    
Moderate hypoalbuminemia
2.9 g/dL2.8 g/dL2.7 g/dL2.6 g/dL2.5 g/dL2.4 g/dL2.3 g/dL2.2 g/dL
2.1 g/dL2 g/dL      
Marked hypoalbuminemia
1.9 g/dL1.8 g/dL1.7 g/dL1.6 g/dL1.5 g/dL1.4 g/dL1.3 g/dL1.2 g/dL
1.1 g/dL1 g/dL0.9 g/dL0.8 g/dL0.7 g/dL0.6 g/dL0.5 g/dL0.4 g/dL
0.3 g/dL0.2 g/dL0.1 g/dL0 g/dL    
Last update: 23/10/2020

Bibliography

  • Concise Book of Medical Laboratory Technology: Methods and Interpretations. 2nd Edition. 2015. Ramnik Sood. ISBN: 978-93-5152-333-8. Pag. 479.
  • Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE). Version 5.0.Published: November 27, 2017. U.S. Department of health and human Services. Disponible en: https://ctep.cancer.gov
  • Tietz. Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry. Carl A. Burtis, Edward R. Ashwood, David E. Bruns, Barbara G. Sawyer. WB Saunders Company, 2008. Pag 297. ISBN: 978-0-7216-3865-2.
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures with nursing diagnoses (8th ed), Jane Vincent Corbett, Angela Denise Banks, ISBN: 978-0-13-237332-6, Pag. 230.

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