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Proteins are the building blocks of the human body. Albumin and globulin are both proteins that are essential for the healthy functioning of the human body. Albumin accounts for more than 50% of the total plasma proteins in the human body. It performs the vital function of regulating the colloidal osmotic pressure of the blood. It helps in moving fatty acids, hormones, bilirubin, cations, and drugs in the blood. It also prevents the fluid from leaking out of the blood into the tissues. When the concentration of serum albumin is lower and higher than the normal range, it is referred to as hypoalbuminemia and hyperalbuminemia, respectively. Abnormal serum albumin levels could be indicative of certain medical conditions. The following sections explain the underlying causes of high and low albumin levels in blood.

Normal Albumin Levels

Albumin test is normally carried out during a liver panel, which is performed for diagnosing liver diseases. It is also carried out along with creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) test for evaluating the kidney function. A serum albumin test is recommended in case of individuals who have been experiencing symptoms such as jaundice, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, swelling around the legs, abdomen and eyes, etc. The reference range for albumin levels in blood is between 3.4 and 5.4 g/dL. Normal reference range for albumin in urine is about 0-8 mg/dL.

Elevated Albumin Levels

One of the major reasons behind high levels of albumin in blood is severe dehydration. Dehydration could occur due to inadequate intake of water, or loss of water due to severe vomiting or diarrhea. Thus, serum albumin levels could get elevated in individuals affected by diseases that cause dehydration. Basically, dehydration doesn't actually cause the protein levels to rise. Loss of water causes blood to thicken, which in turn causes the components of the blood to become concentrated. It is believed that hyperalbuminemia might be linked to the deficiency of vitamin A.

Possible causes of elevated serum protein levels include:

Bone marrow disorder
Multiple myeloma
Amyloidosis
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance
Chronic inflammatory conditions
HIV/AIDS

Low Albumin Levels

Low serum albumin levels could be a symptom of a liver disease, inflammation, shock, or malnutrition. Hypoalbuminemia could be indicative of kidney diseases, wherein these large-sized proteins pass through damaged glomeruli, and are flushed out of the body through urine. Also, it could occur when the body's ability to absorb and digest proteins is adversely affected due to inflammatory bowel disease. The contributing factors for hypoalbuminemia include:

Cirrhosis that causes ascites
Nephrotic syndrome
Hepatic failure
Inflammation/Infection
Overhydration due to polydipsia (excessive thirst)
Liver dysfunction
Crohn's disease
Celiac disease
Severe burn injuries
Chronic debilitating diseases
Whipple's disease

On a concluding note, serum albumin levels and levels of albumin in urine can help in the diagnosis of serious medical conditions. Since dehydration can cause a false elevation in serum albumin levels, it is advisable to increase one's fluid intake. Also, medical help must be sought if one has been experiencing symptoms associated with liver or kidney diseases.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.