What is Albumin? - Definition & Levels

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Albumin is a protein that is integral to proper liver function as it ensures cells are filled with proper levels of various essential fluids. Learn more about the definition of albumin, when a test should be ordered by a physician, and what high and low levels of the protein in the liver mean. Updated: 12/02/2021

What Is Albumin?

Albumin is a pretty funny sounding word, but in reality, it's a fairly important protein that is made by the liver. When the liver or kidneys are not functioning well, albumin levels may be out of whack, but more on that later. For now, let's take a closer look at how this protein contributes to your overall health.

Think of the cells in your body as tiny fluid-filled sacs. If these tiny sacs, or cells, lose too much fluid, they shrivel, and if they have too much fluid, they explode. Obviously exploding or shriveling cells are not good, so your body tries to keep your cells just right. And how does your body accomplish this? Well, this is where albumin comes into play. Although albumin isn't fully responsible for keeping the fluid level in your cells just right, it does play a major part.

Albumin helps transport substances through your blood, mainly calcium, progesterone, and bilirubin. While you've probably heard of calcium, progesterone and bilirubin may be a bit more foreign to you. In women, progesterone is involved in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy; in men progesterone is the precursor to other hormones, like testosterone. Bilirubin is produced when red blood cells are broken down, and if they're not transported appropriately, certain problems can arise. For example, if bilirubin levels are too high, you may notice a yellowing of your skin or eyes, known as jaundice. This is often seen in newborn babies.

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  • 0:02 What Is Albumin?
  • 1:30 When Is the Test Ordered?
  • 1:53 Low & High Albumin
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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When Is the Test Ordered?

Oftentimes, albumin tests are ordered as a general health screening. Most times a simple blood test is all that that's needed to measure albumin levels, as it's found in the blood's plasma, or the clear portion of blood. An albumin test may also be ordered if you're having certain medical problems too, such as:

  • Swelling in the abdomen region
  • Unexplained loss of appetite and weight
  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue

Low & High Albumin

Let's now talk a bit about low and high levels of albumin. Levels below 3.5 g/dL are considered low, although this value may vary depending upon the laboratory and the age of the patient. For example, the normal level for children is between 4 to 5.9 g/dL, and even these ranges can vary.

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