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Globulin is one of the serum proteins, the other one being albumin. Globulins include gamma globulins (antibodies) and a variety of enzymes and protein molecules that act as carriers. The specific profile of globulins is determined by protein electrophoresis which separates the proteins according to their size and charge. There are four major groups of globulins, which are alpha-1 globulins, alpha-2 globulins, beta globulins and gamma globulins. Some globulins are produced in the liver, while others are secreted by the immune system. Globulin that forms a part of the immune system is the most important one, and is commonly referred to as immunoglobulin. Since the gamma fraction usually makes up the largest portion of the globulins, antibody deficiency should always come to mind when there are low globulin levels in the blood.
The optimal range of globulin in the body is 2.3 to 2.8 g/dl. Along with the individual levels of globulin, what is commonly calculated is the albumin/globulin ratio. Ideally, the ratio of albumin to globulin is 1.0 or more. The solubility and the electrophoretic migration rates of globulin are lower than those for albumin. This test is important as it helps in diagnosing various disorders like liver diseases, kidney disease (proteinuria), cirrhosis, autoimmune diseases, leukemias, and hormone imbalances as these are illnesses where the albumin levels drop considerably. It is observed that a low A/G ratio may result in excessive production of globulins in diseases like multiple myeloma, or inadequate production of globulins in diseases like cirrhosis. Given below are details regarding when low levels of globulin are seen and what it signifies.
Hypoglobulinemia
The term 'hypoglobulinemia' refers to low levels of globulin in the blood. This condition can be an indication of a kidney disease. Ideally, the levels of protein in urine are nearly negligible. This is because during urine formation, the glomerulus, which is the part of the nephron that is involved with filtration, does not allow the passage of large structures like blood cells and proteins. However, when there is a kidney infection, then the structure of the glomerulus gets destroyed, which leads proteins passing into urine. One suffers from hypoglobulinemia when the proteins are progressively lost in the urine.
Another condition where there are low levels of globulin is in acute hemolytic anemia. This is a condition where the red blood cells are destroyed either in the vessels or elsewhere in the body. The normal life span of a red blood cell is around 120 days. However, when red blood cells are destroyed in the body before they complete 120 days, then the condition is known as hemolytic anemia. And since blood cells are made of protein molecules, their destruction and eventual removal from the body leads to deficiency of protein, which manifests in the form of hypoglobulinemia.
Other causes of low levels of globulin in the body include the presence of a liver disease. Liver diseases often lead to jaundice, which is nothing but an increase in the levels of bilirubin, which occurs due to destruction of blood cells in the body. At times, even the presence of malnutrition diseases, like kwashiorkor and marasmus can lead to low levels of globulin in the body. Celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease can also lead to low levels of globulin in the body.
It is not very difficult to identify and diagnose low levels of globulin in the body. This is because there are many symptoms which help in identifying this condition, like edema of the limbs and body, an increased susceptibility to contracting infectious diseases due to decreased immunity, etc. To confirm the low levels of globulin, blood tests can be done, which will help measure the globulin and albumin levels. Thus, if you happen to notice any such symptoms, you need to contact your doctor immediately, as this may be an indicator of a major underlying disease or disorder.