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How are protein levels tested?

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Quick Answer

Doctors assess protein levels in the blood by using a total serum protein test, according to WebMD. The test determines the total protein level in the blood as well as individual levels of albumin and globulin, which are two major groups of proteins. Albumin is primarily found in the liver and supports tissue growth and healing. It also keeps blood from leaking from blood vessels. Globulin is made by the liver and the immune system.

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Testing for albumin levels helps doctors determine how well the liver and kidneys are functioning, as WebMD explains. The test also indicates if individuals are getting enough protein in their diets and may determine the cause of certain conditions such as swelling in the ankles and abdomen, or excess fluid in the lungs. High levels of albumin also indicate dehydration, while low levels are caused by a variety of conditions, including poor diet, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, and heart failure.

Doctors use globulin tests to look for the risk of developing infections and the presence of disease, reports WebMD. High levels of globulin in the blood may be caused by kidney or liver disease, autoimmune diseases such as lupus or hepatitis, tuberculosis, and blood diseases such as Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma, leukemia and hemolytic anemia. Abnormal levels of globulin may require additional testing.

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