June 8, 2010

Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of Low Albumin Levels

Posted in Category : Common Ailments

Albumin can be described as the most common protein that is found in your blood. This protein makes up about 60% of the total human blood plasma protein. Your body requires albumin for the growth and repair of its various cells. According to the guidelines given by the National Kidney Foundation, the normal levels of this protein in the blood should be 4.0 g/dl or higher. However, there are a couple of factors that could cause the levels of albumin protein in your blood to fall. Low levels of albumin protein in the blood leads to a condition, which is known as hypoalbuminemia.

Causes of Hypoalbuminemia

While any one can suffer from a deficit of albumin in the blood, hypoalbuminemia is a lot more common in elderly people. The causes of hypoalbuminemia can be broadly classified into four categories, which include:

  • Decrease in albumin synthesis
  • Increased loss of albumin
  • Redistribution of albumin to locations out of the intravascular space
  • Dilution of the albumin inside the intravascular space

There are several different factors that could lead to hypoalbuminemia, some of which include:

  • Inadequate Nutrition: There may be a drop in your serum albumin, in case you do not get the required amount of protein from your diet.
  • Renal Dysfunction: In case your kidneys are not working properly because of any reason, they albumin may leak into your urine, which in turn leads to hypoalbuminemia.
  • Liver Problems: Diseases that affect your liver may lead to loss of albumin in the body. These diseases usually include hepatitis or cancer of the liver. Weakened liver due to excessive alcohol consumption could also cause the same problem
  • Heart Conditions: Conditions such as pericarditis or congestive heart failure may lead to a decline in the levels of blood albumin
  • Stomach Ailments: Certain types of stomach problems like inflammatory bowel disease or lymphoma could also result in hypoalbuminemia
  • Lung Infections: Hypoalbuminemia can occur due to infectious diseases of the lungs like tuberculosis

At times, you may also suffer from the deficiency of albumin as a reaction to certain medication. Most of the causes of hypoalbuminemia are quite serious and should be treated by a doctor  as early as possible.

Symptoms of Hypoalbuminemia

Many people have low levels of albumin for a long period of time, without even realizing it. This could be because the symptoms of hypoalbuminemia do not really make an appearance in the initial stages, or as long as the albumin levels do not fall significantly low.  Some of the signs and symptoms of hypoalbuminemia include:

  • Ascites or bloating in the abdominal area
  • Cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pleural effusions or the accumulations of fluid in the space surrounding the lungs
  • Swelling in one part of the body (like the legs) or all over the body
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Weight loss

As the condition worsens, the symptoms may also become more severe. Some of the more serious symptoms of hypoalbuminemia include:

  • Severe diarrhea, where you pass loose or watery stools more than 5 times a day
  • Nausea, which interferes with your ability to eat and does not improve with medication
  • Vomiting more than 4 or 5 times within a time span of 24 hours
  • Constipation that does not get relieved by laxatives
  • Confusion or changes in thinking
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain and discomfort in the chest area
  • Palpitations or rapid heart beat

These symptoms are not exclusive to hypoalbuminemia, which is why this condition may not be diagnosed immediately. However, it is important for you to consult a doctor as soon as you experience any of these signs and symptoms.

Hypoalbuminemia Treatment

In order to restore the normal levels of albumin protein in the body, it is important to treat the underlying cause of the condition. Therefore, all instances of hypoalbuminemia should be checked and treated by a doctor.

Most doctors prescribe medication in the initial stages of low albumin treatment. The dosage of the medication may vary, depending upon the severity of the condition, as well as your overall health. In case the underlying cause of hypoalbuminemia is serious, your doctor may ask you to undergo a surgery.

There are a few steps you can take to prevent the deficiency of albumin protein in your blood. In order to maintain an adequate albumin level at all times, you need to –

  • Follow a diet plan that provides your body with the required amount of protein. Foods that come from animals like milk, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork and veal are generally the best sources of high quality protein. You could also get protein from foods like beans, nuts and grains. However, these sources generally contain lower quality protein.
  • Reduce the risks of infections by following strict hygienic measures at all times. Apart from personal hygiene, you need to make sure that your surroundings are clean and free of harmful germs.
  • Schedule appointments with your medical team as soon as you notice any changes in your skin such as soreness, redness, swelling and drainage.


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21867985