Albumin is a protein that makes up a large proportion of blood plasma. It is different from albumen, which is egg white, although egg whites also contain some albumin. Albumin transports fat, hormones and other materials throughout the body, and helps regulate the movement of fluid into and out of body tissues. It is necessary for maintenance of the body. Some people have a shortage of albumin in their bloodstreams. For some this is a temporary state, while it may be part of a chronic condition for others.
Intake Shortage or Output Excess
Albumin deficiency can result from malnutrition, or from conditions that cause massive fluid loss. A diet that does not contain enough protein can produce low albumin levels. Some illnesses, such as Crohn's Disease, interfere with the body's ability to absorb protein, so albumin deficiency results despite sufficient protein intake . When a person loses a high volume of fluid, such as from traumatic bleeding, or severe burns compromise large areas of the skin, albumin is lost along with blood and other fluids.
The Liver is the Source
Some chronic conditions lead to albumin deficiency as well. The liver produces albumin, so liver disorders like cirrhosis or hepatitis can result in albumin deficiency. Kidney disease is another cause; if the kidneys are not functioning properly, they may let too much albumin pass into the urine, where it is lost from the body. Another cause is congestive heart failure which hampers the flow of blood and other fluids through the body.
Take the Test
Possible symptoms of albumin deficiency include fluid accumulation in the legs or the abdomen, fatigue, muscle cramps and poor appetite. Health care professionals can diagnoses albumin deficiency using a blood test; however, there are some instances where the test might not be accurate. For example, some medications, especially hormonal medications such as anabolic steroids and insulin, can interfere with albumin test results. It is also difficult to assess albumin levels during pregnancy when albumin levels are naturally low.
A Shot in the Arm When Albumin is Low
People who are low on albumin can receive albumin injections for supplementation. This albumin comes from blood donations given by individuals for blood banks, so it is human albumin and not a synthetic. Albumin is the largest component of blood plasma and is given in this form to treat trauma victims who experience shock and blood loss, and as a supplement during some surgical procedures.