What constitutes a high level of amylase depends on the laboratory reference range, explains MedlinePlus. A normal range is usually 23 to 85 units per liter, but some laboratories use 40 to 140 units per liter as the reference range.
The enzyme amylase is used to break down carbohydrates, notes MedlinePlus. Amylase is produced in the pancreas and the salivary glands, so any time the pancreas is inflamed or diseased, the enzyme is released into the bloodstream. The amylase blood test is used to diagnose problems with the pancreas and digestive tract.
Problems with the pancreas, bile ducts, intestines or gallbladder can cause a person to have an elevated amylase level, states MedlinePlus. Specific causes of elevated amylase levels include acute pancreatitis, severe gastroenteritis, intestinal blockages and gallbladder attacks. Amylase levels also increase due to salivary-gland infections, tubal pregnancy, perforated ulcers and bile-duct blockages. Because some medications increase amylase levels, it may be necessary to temporarily discontinue certain drugs before having an amylase test. Aspirin, birth control pills and opiates are among the medications that affect amylase test results.
Doctors usually order the amylase blood test to investigate the underlying cause of nausea, fever, severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite and severe back pain, reports the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.