Your blood contains several types of proteins that serve different functions. Albumin is the most prevalent protein in your blood, and without it, you can experience a number of symptoms. If your physician suspects you might not have enough albumin in your body, he can perform a blood test to determine your range and recommend treatments to correct albumin levels.
Your liver is responsible for filtering proteins in the blood and breaking the proteins down into smaller molecules for use. The liver then uses these proteins to create albumin, which is then circulated through the body. To maintain normal blood albumin ranges, you should have between 3.4 and 5.4 g/dL of albumin in your blood.
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Albumin plays a major role in maintaining fluid balance in your body. It creates a concentration gradient in your cells that pulls fluids in when needed and emits fluids when cells become too full. Your cells are much like a balloon — they can lose air — or fluid — and need to be refilled. However, your cells also can burst like a balloon if they become too full. If you do lose albumin in your body, the fluid can leak into your tissues and cause swelling.
In addition to its role in maintaining fluid balance, albumin also acts as a transport vessel. The albumin in your blood moves the mineral calcium, the hormone progesterone and medicines throughout your tissues. Albumin also moves bilirubin, a yellow pigment and bile byproduct created in the liver, throughout your body. Without enough bilirubin, you can experience side effects such as jaundice, weight loss and fatigue.
The role of albumin in fluid balance and transport means low albumin levels can cause bodily problems that manifest in symptoms. If your diet is protein-deficient, you can experience swelling in your tissues. Certain conditions such as liver disease can contribute to low albumin levels because liver disease impairs the body’s ability to create proteins. Kidney disease also can affect your body’s ability to use proteins properly.
If you take medications such as anabolic steroids, androgen hormones, growth hormones or insulin, you might experience an increase in albumin levels. A symptom of high albumin levels is dehydration because your cells might be taking in more water to balance the higher amounts of albumin in your blood.