What Is Albumin?
Albumin is a protein manufactured by the liver.
WHAT DOES ALBUMIN DO?
Albumin performs many functions including maintaining the “osmotic pressure” that causes fluid to remain within the blood stream instead of leaking out into the tissues.
WHAT CAUSES ALBUMIN TO BE TOO LOW?
Liver disease, kidney disease, and malnutrition are the major causes of low albumin. A diseased liver produces insufficient albumin. Diseased kidneys sometimes lose large amounts of albumin into the urine faster than the liver can produce it (this is termed nephrotic syndrome). In malnutrition there is not enough protein in the patient’s diet for the liver to make new albumin from.
WHAT IS THE NORMAL LEVEL OF ALBUMIN?
The normal value depends on the laboratory running the test. Most labs consider roughly 3.5 to 5 grams per deciliter to be normal.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY ALBUMIN GETS TOO LOW?
In a healthy person with normal nutrition, the liver will simply manufacture more and the level will normalize. If albumin gets very low swelling can occur in the ankles (edema) and fluid can begin to accumulte in the abdomen (ascites) and in the lungs (pulmonary edema).
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR ALBUMIN HIGHER?
The person must return to health. Therefore the underlying disorder must be corrected. If the disorder is cirrhosis of the liver, the only way to correct low albumin is generally to have a liver transplant.
Albumin levels are also dependant on the state of hydration of the body. A person that is deficient of water (“dry”) because of dehydration will have an artificially low albumin level. This returns to normal when the dehydration is corrected. Albumin fluctuates so widely because it is very sensitive to changes in hydration of the body.